When I see a patient for the first time and mention to them I feel they may have Parkinson's or a related condition, that is the last thing the patient hears. They think that their life is over, they won't be able to get out of the bed or the wheelchair, and won't be able to talk or communicate. That is the farthest thing from the truth. Parkinson’s is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects a certain part of the brain, and leads to a movement disorder. It is a human condition, certain cells of the brain stop producing a chemical, dopamine, that is very important in movement. I explain to patients that anyone that lives long enough will likely have this process, and then try to go on to educate the patient regarding the disorder.
Alzheimer's – a word that brings fear to most senior adults. But what is Alzheimer's Disease?
Alzheimer's is a disorder of the brain that leads to a decline in memory, comprehension, thinking, and judgment. Often this is a slow process; occasionally it occurs more rapidly. Frequently, memory loss is the first sign of this disorder.
However, not all individuals with memory loss have Alzheimer's disease. It is quite common to misplace your car keys, your glasses, or forget the name of someone you know. However, most people will find their keys and glasses and recall the name of their friend later in the day. Many individuals find that they need to make lists more frequently in order to keep up with daily tasks. Usually, these changes are fairly easily managed and do not interfere with most independent life activities.
Unfortunately, in some individuals, the cognitive changes, memory loss, and social impairments become progressive and can lead to a concern that the patient has dementia. "Dementia" is a general term that simply means a waxing and waning of cognitive ability. This often will involve impairment of thinking, judgment, memory, concentration, and behavior.
Having practiced in southwest Florida for more than 20 years as a Board-Certified Neurologist, one thing is certain in health care: getting people moving and keeping them active is the key to health care. But there are so many illnesses and injuries that can prevent people from being active; from simple sprains and strains of ligaments and muscles, to arthritis and back pain, and to medical problems such as neurologic conditions, heart, or lung disease. Physical therapy can be the key that can unlock your health!