Getting an early Parkinson’s diagnosis can be difficult for anyone, but even more difficult for Black and African American people. Difficulty finding specialists, awareness of symptoms, along with health and economic challenges may all play a part in this.
With education, anyone with Parkinson’s, or a caregiver of a patient, can have a voice in their treatment and positively affect their quality of life.
An early diagnosis is the first hurdle many in the Black community face. Being diagnosed at later stages can negatively impact their long-term health, so starting treatment early is very important.
When you notice early signs of Parkinson’s in yourself or a loved one, seek help. Some things to look for include tremors, changes in gait, in speech pattern, volume, or speed, and temperament. Sometimes the changes are so subtle that you, as the patient, may not even notice them. This is especially true when it comes to your voice and temperament. You may not realize you’re speaking more softly or slowly. You may not realize you’re getting more agitated or depressed than normal. It may very well be a family member that points out your first symptom. If this happens, don’t dismiss it, act on it. Contact a specialist.
Currently, we have no understanding as to how many Black people there are living with PD. There has also been limited research within the Black community which is detrimental because only research can, one day, provide a cure. Treatments can also be customized depending on how PD affects the Black community specifically. You may even decide to get involved in a Parkinson’s research study to further understanding and help spur advancements in the treatment of PD.
While people in the Black PD community are less likely to see a specialist, it can help manage symptoms and avoid complications. Building a support team is important. Some members of that team include doctors, therapists, and family members.
You may see psychologists, counselors, psychiatrists, neurologists, and social workers, to name a few. Don’t allow someone else’s belief or thoughts around mental health stop you from finding the care that you need.
Part of your team may also include a support group. There are PD support groups all over the country, check to find one close to you. They can be very beneficial by providing an environment of understanding and support. You are not alone and there is no reason to feel as if you have to navigate this diagnosis in isolation and without proper support.
Author: James Ferrara
James Ferrara is both an Occupational Therapist and Certified Lymphedema Therapist. He has spent years honing his craft in this industry, and will be able to help you improve your mobility. His education and experience in the industry includes:
20+ Years Therapy Experience
6+ Years Outpatient Therapy Experience
11 Years Home Healthcare Experience
Occupational Therapy Master Degree and Certification for Lymphedema Therapy from the Academy of Lymphatic Studies
Certified Therapist for LSVT BIG®
Parkinson’s Wellness Rehab – PWR
Spalding University graduate since 2006
Sarasota School of Massage Therapy graduate since 2001
Athletic Training Degree from Illinois State University since 1998
Certified Lymphedema & Wound Therapist – International Lymphedema & Wound Training Institute
2201 Cantu Ct., Sarasota, FL 34232