ParkinsonNet care providers reduce complications in Parkinson’s Disease
People with Parkinson’s disease have fewer complications when treated by ParkinsonNet physiotherapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists. A combination of specialist care by these four disciplines also leads to the greatest reduction in complications. This is evident from new research by the Radboudumc among more than 51,000 people with parkinson’s. Never before have these results emerged for speech therapy and the combination of care.
One in a hundred people over the age of 55 will develop Parkinson’s disease. Although medications (partially) reduce symptoms of the disease, they cannot prevent certain complications. Examples include a broken bone from a fall or pneumonia from swallowing problems. For this reason, among others, people with parkinson’s also receive paramedical care, such as physical or exercise therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy. PhD student Amir Talebi and research leader Sirwan Darweesh of the Radboudumc Neurology Department investigated whether it makes a difference whether specialized paramedics or non-specialized practitioners provide this care.
The researchers used data from all people with parkinson’s in the Netherlands, more than 51,000, over a period of nine years. The specialized paramedics were trained by ParkinsonNet. This allows physio- and remedial therapists, for example, to gain expertise in providing fall prevention to people with parkinson’s. The study shows that people receiving specialized treatment by ParkinsonNet physio- and exercise therapists have a quarter fewer bone fractures than patients receiving regular treatment. Speech therapy by specifically trained providers even reduced pneumonia by 30 percent, while specialized occupational therapy reduced the incidence of complications by about 10 percent. Darweesh: “There was already evidence that specialized physical therapy had beneficial effects, but this had never been studied in such a large group. For speech therapy and occupational therapy, this had never been demonstrated at all.”
More than the sum of its parts
The study also shows that different forms of specialty paramedic care are mutually reinforcing. For example, people with parkinson’s who receive both physical/exercise and occupational therapy from specifically trained paramedics have far fewer complications than those who receive specialist occupational therapy but regular physical therapy. “We are demonstrating for the first time a team effect with this,” Darweesh says. “The combination of the different forms of specialty paramedic care here is really more than the sum of its parts. We therefore call on paramedics from different disciplines: work (even) more together! After all, people with parkinson’s really benefit from a joint treatment plan.”
About the publication
This research was published in Movement Disorders: Specialized versus Generic Allied Health Therapy and the Risk of Parkinson’s Disease Complications. A.H. Talebi, J.H.L. Ypinga, N.M. De Vries, J. Nonnekes, M. Munneke, B.R. Bloem, T. Heskes, Y.B. Shlomo, S.K.L. Darweesh. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/mds.29274.