Q: I live in fear that I will get Parkinson's disease, which afflicted my mother at the end of her life. I am a 65-year-old woman who is active and would like to continue working part time. Is there something I can do to prevent this from happening to me? What are jobs out there for a woman like me to help keep my mind off worrying?
A: Parkinson's disease is a neurological disorder that affects a half million people in the United States, with about 50,000 newly diagnosed cases each year.
And, it normally strikes those past age 60.
Shaky hands, tremors, rigid muscles, slower movements are all the symptoms most often associated with Parkinson's disease.
There is no cure and, until now, no reliable method for detecting the disease. An encouraging glimmer of hope exists, though. A research team from Michigan State has developed an innovative detection method they say is a major breakthrough in diagnosing Parkinson's in early stages - the point at which treatment to control symptoms is most effective.
The method of detection, developed in part by Rahul Shrivastav, professor and chair of MSU's Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, involves monitoring a patient's speech patterns, specifically movement patterns of the tongue and jaw.
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Shrivastav says Parkinson's affects all patients' speech and changes in speech patterns are detectable before other movement and muscles are affected by the disease.
The new early detection method has proved to be more than 90 percent effective and is noninvasive and inexpensive.
Requiring as little as two seconds of speech, monitoring can be done remotely and in telemedicine applications.
Since there is no cure for Parkinson's disease, early detection is particularly important because the treatments currently available for controlling symptoms are most effective at that stage.
Shrivastav hopes that by designing tools to capture those changes, which are very small, inaudible changes, neurologists and other health care providers will have a way to make a diagnostic decision that isn't possible otherwise.
Share your concerns with your doctor, and stay up-to-date with medical check-ups. Since you are healthy and active, be sure to engage socially with friends and family.
It's great that you want to keep contributing to your community. Why not consider applying for a job with your local Home Instead Senior Care. The organization is always on the look-out for CAREGivers to help seniors in their homes.
Many CAREGivers are active seniors themselves. Call today to learn more.
For more about this study, visit http://msuto day.msu.edu/360/2013/detecting-parkinsons-for-better-treatment.
For more information about Home Instead Senior Care, contact DeLauter at 866-522-6533 or visit www.homeinstead.com.
DeLauter is the owner of the Home Instead Senior Care office in Lewisburg, which serves Union, Snyder, Northumberland, Lycoming, Clinton, Montour and Columbia counties.