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Role of Your Neurologist and Members of Your Care Team

Finding the Right Doctor

By

Updated June 20, 2014

Role of Your Neurologist and Members of Your Care Team

You will be working as a team with your doctor- it is important that you are an active partner in your care.

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So you have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease (PD). There are so many decisions you need to make while you adjust to the news. Among the most important decisions you will need to attend to is the assembling of a team of specialists who will manage your care over the course of the next few years. While you can always change members of the team, putting some amount of thought and planning into assembling the initial team will pay dividends for you down the road if that team can rapidly and effectively address your early symptoms and needs.

The following suggestions will help you to assemble the care team that is best for you. I will also give you some pointers on how best to interact with your care team.

Members of the Health Care Team

First who should make up your care team? At a minimum you will need:

  • A primary care physician who looks after your day to day medical needs
  • A neurologist who specializes in movement disorders
  • A counselor or psychiatrist or psychologist who can help you manage potential emotional and mental health problems is they arise
  • Allied health professionals like physical therapists, occupational therapists, sleep medicine specialists and so forth. Your neurologist should be able to help you find the allied health professionals right for you.

All of these people will of course need to communicate to some extent with one another but the key figure for management of your PD symptoms will be the neurologist. So how do you find a neurologist who is right for you?

Choose a Neurologist Who Specializes in Movement Disorders

Your first task is to find a neurologist who specializes in movement disorders (like Parkinson’s). You need someone who is familiar with PD, who can tell you what to anticipate and who can put you in touch with the best resources and treatment options available. This neurologist will know when to start medications and when to adjust the dosages of those medications to achieve maximum benefit and so forth. So how do you find such a specialist?

First ask your primary care doctor for a referral to such a specialist. Your primary care doctor will certainly be able to point you in the right direction.

You can also find a local support group for PD patients and ask those individuals for recommendations on PD specialists. You can get information on local support groups as well as local PD specialists from the local or regional chapters of a national PD organization. (See the links to resources).

For example, you might call anyone of these organizations and ask for a list of PD specialists in your area:

What to Look for in a Parkinson’s Disease Neurologist

Here is a checklist of basic questions for your prospective neurologist:

  • How long have you worked in the field? How many PD patients do you see a year?
  • Do you have special training in movement disorders? Are you Board Certified?
  • Who do I see when you are not available?
  • What hospital do you use for treating patients?

Besides these basic questions, the most important way to choose the neurologist you will work with is by listening to the treatment plan he puts together for you. Does it make sense? Does he or she discuss it with you after considering your personal needs, goals and symptoms? Does he mention that it needs to be flexible and be re-evaluated over time? Does he try to integrate the plan into your everyday life and needs?

You need to use your common sense when choosing a PD neurologist/specialist. You cannot doctor yourself. You need to trust at some point that this highly trained specialist knows what he or she is doing.

Source:

G. Garie and M.J Church (2007). Living well with Parkinsons Disease: What your doctor doesn't tell you that you need to know. HarpersCollins: New York, NY.

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