April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month, an observance the Parkinson’s Foundation participates in to raise awareness about Parkinson’s disease (PD) and the resources available to make life better for people diagnosed with PD.

PD is a disorder of the central nervous system and causes symptoms related to the movement of the muscles. Those symptoms include tremors, rigidity and poor balance. PD also affects numerous non-motor symptoms impacting mental health, cognition, sleep and anxiety. VA estimates 110,000 Veterans are living with PD.

The Parkinson’s Foundation and VA partnered in 2020 to improve the health and quality of life for Veterans living with PD. This partnership will add to what VA already offers.

VA has led large PD research studies and clinical trials over the years and in 2001 established the Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education, and Clinical Centers (PADRECCs) which are designated VA Centers of Excellence at six sites in the country.

Partnership increases awareness of expertise

VA also has 51 Consortium Centers, which are regional specialty clinics for Veterans unable to travel to a PADRECC.

“VA’s PADRECCs and Consortium Centers are clinical centers where they are experts in Parkinson’s Disease. Their physicians, care teams and array of health professionals treating Veterans with PD have expertise in Parkinson’s Disease. This partnership is to increase awareness of those kinds of clinics and that expertise,” said Sheera Rosenfeld, vice president of strategic initiatives for the Parkinson’s Foundation.

This partnership will drive awareness of resources such as the PADRECCs and Consortium Centers – and options such as telehealth – so Veterans and their care partners can take advantage of the benefits and services VA offers.

Register for informative virtual event on April 28

On April 28, Veterans and their caregivers can attend a virtual program, “Veterans and Parkinson’s: Social Connection & Empowerment.”

They will hear from fellow Veterans, clinicians and Southwest PADRECC director Dr. Indu Subramanian.

Register at Parkinson.org/SWvets.

The Parkinson’s Foundation offers mindfulness, fitness,and wellness-driven programming online on its “PD Health @ Home” platform.

“Staying connected is a crucial part of the prescription for living well with PD. Our research has shown that being lonely can have a significant negative impact in the quality of life of people living with Parkinson’s” said Subramanian. “Getting regular exercise, staying hydrated, eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and getting good sleep are all a part of living well with PD. The pandemic has really highlighted the importance of staying connected with friends, family, and our neighbors. This social connection is all the more critical in our Veterans with Parkinson’s.”

The VHA National Center for Healthcare Advancement and Partnerships (HAP) facilitated the development of this partnership. HAP was formerly the Office of Community Engagement.

For more information on HAP’s partnerships, please visit va.gov/healthpartnerships.

Tracy L. Weistreich is a nurse executive for the VHA National Center for Healthcare Advancement and Partnerships.

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Published on Apr. 27, 2021

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