Parkinson’s Foundation, VA Join to Help US Veterans Manage Disease

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by Mary Chapman |

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veterans and Parkinson's

The Parkinson’s Foundation and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are collaborating on an effort to improve the health and life quality of veterans with Parkinson’s disease.

The two want to provide people who served in the U.S. Armed Forces with better resources and ways to manage Parkinson’s, a disease that affects nearly 1 million people in the country and about 110,000 veterans, half of whom are at least 65. Globally, nearly 10 million people are living with this disease.

“VA and the Foundation are working to increase access to information about Parkinson’s disease,” John L. Lehr, president and CEO of the Parkinson’s Foundation, said in a press release. “Educating and training VA staff on disease management and therapies, along with improving veterans’ access to direct health services related to the disease is a paramount objective.”

The nonprofit organization currently offers information of help in managing Parkinson’s, with topics including diet and nutrition, emotional wellness, advice for the newly diagnosed, activities of daily livingdental health, sexual health, living alone, and talking to children the disease.

A foundation webpage addresses caring for a veteran with Parkinson’s. In addition to caregiver resources, the organization provides a guide for caregivers, information about depression and other non-movement symptoms, and tips on how to prepare for hospitalizations.

VA resources specific to care partners of patients include what caregivers need to know, and Parkinson’s research, education, and clinical centers. On the second Tuesday of each month, the agency also presents a free telephone education and support conference for veterans with Parkinson’s and their  caregivers.

Many military veterans with Parkinson’s have access to specialized medical care through the VA. Visit this foundation site or this VA site to apply for care and benefits. Here are basic eligibility requirements, and information about VA healthcare for elderly veterans.

In some instances, veterans can tie their disease to their U.S. military service. Those who served from 1962 to 1975 are at an increased risk of the progressive disease due to the military’s tactical use of the herbicide known as Agent Orange.

“This collaboration ensures veterans diagnosed with Parkinson’s have access to the information and resources they need to better manage their health,” said Robert Wilkie, VA secretary. “The joint effort enhances the multitude of services that care teams at the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) provide to veterans with Parkinson’s disease.”

Go here for VHA videos of stories from veterans who are living with Parkinson’s. The integrated healthcare system serves 9 million enrolled veterans annually.

A recent study found that U.S. veterans who have post-traumatic stress disorder, or who have experienced a traumatic brain injury, are at a two times higher risk of rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder, a risk factor for Parkinson’s.

In addition to its work to improve patient care, and the Parkinson’s Foundation is committed to advancing research toward a cure.