Parkinson’s Foundation, VA Host Online Symposium for US Vets on March 20

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by Mary Chapman |

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US vets and Parkinson's

A free virtual symposium about U.S. veterans, their families, and Parkinson’s disease (PD) is on tap for Saturday, March 20.

Called “Veterans and Parkinson’s Disease: What You Need to Know,” the three-hour Zoom event runs opens at 9 a.m. EST, and is presented by the Parkinson’s Foundation and the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA).

Those interested in taking part must register at www.parkinson.org/sevets or by calling 770-450-0792.

The symposium’s goal is to make veterans with Parkinson’s and their loved ones better aware of the latest in therapeutic advances, as well as of resources available through the VA and the foundation. Healthcare professionals and the broader Parkinson’s community are also welcome to attend.

“We understand that most people with Parkinson’s develop symptoms at 50 years of age and older. As the population ages, so will the number of Americans living with Parkinson’s, including veterans,” said John L. Lehr, president and CEO of the Parkinson’s Foundation, in a press release.

“Serving those who have served our country is a priority of the Parkinson’s Foundation and we’re honored to partner with the VA to provide this online program to help veterans live better with Parkinson’s disease.”

Of the estimated 1 million people with Parkinson’s in the U.S., some 110,000 are veterans. Of those, about half are at least 65. While what specifically causes Parkinson’s is unknown, scientists think a mix of genetic and environmental factors are likely culprits. Some research also suggests that a Parkinson’s diagnosis is associated with Agent Orange or other herbicide exposure from a veteran’s years of service, particularly during the years 1962 to 1975.

In addition to vets who are living with Parkinson’s, the symposium will feature Parkinson’s and mental health experts from the foundation, the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center, and other VA medical centers throughout the nation’s Southeast.

Topics will include Parkinson’s treatment and care, with a focus on non-motor symptoms such as depression and anxiety. Information shared will also cover VA interdisciplinary care, VA resources, and caregiver support.

“Our VA understands the importance of partnerships, like the one with the Parkinson’s Foundation, to provide additional healthcare resources, support, and opportunities for our veterans,” said Scott Isaacks, director of the Johnson medical center. “We are excited to host this first-of-its-kind event and continue helping our veterans with Parkinson’s.”

The Parkinson’s Foundation and the VA began collaborating on an effort to improve the health and life quality of veterans with Parkinson’s in 2020. The aim is to provide people who served in the U.S. armed  services with better resources and ways to manage this disease.

A foundation webpage addresses caring for a veteran with Parkinson’s, and the organization provides a guide for caregivers with 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.

“As a veteran with Parkinson’s disease, it’s important that I’m empowered with as much knowledge as possible so that I can better manage my Parkinson’s disease,” Jay Phillips, a Parkinson’s Foundation volunteer, said of the symposium. “This online program is a valuable tool for all veterans with PD who have questions about the research, care and resources available to our community.”

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