2017 a notable year for Parkinson's disease

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Lois A. Bowers
Lois A. Bowers

April 11 is World Parkinson's Day, the date selected because it's the birthday of James Parkinson, after whom the neurodegenerative brain disorder is named. The entire month of April is Parkinson's Awareness Month in the United States.

This year's observances are especially notable because 2017 is the 200th anniversary of  apothecary surgeon Parkinson's “Essay on the Shaking Palsy,” in which he defined the movement disorder for the first time. It would be almost another 50 years before the disease was named in his honor.

The symptoms identified by Parkinson two centuries ago still are used to diagnose the disease today. But that doesn't mean that nothing has changed in the area of Parkinson's. Just a few recent developments:

  • April 6, the Food and Drug Administration announced that it will allow direct marketing to consumers of a genetic test that identifies predispositions for 10 medical conditions, including Parkinson's. The Parkinson's Disease Foundation urges caution for those considering such tests.
  • The nonprofit organization Rock Steady Boxing's non-contact, boxing-based fitness curriculum is being implemented in places such as the Inn on Westport, an independent living, assisted living and memory care community in Sioux Falls, SD, and the Randolph, NJ, YMCA.
  • A new smartphone app could help improve treatment for people with Parkinson's disease because it enables individuals and their physicians to track the development of systems between medical appointments, its inventors recently announced.
  • March 30, Quicken Loans Arena, home of the Cleveland Cavaliers, became the first NBA arena in the country to be certified as “sensory inclusive” by the nonprofit KultureCity. The move, which other arenas are expected to emulate, is designed to provide relief at arena events for those with those with Parkinson's and others.

“The Enlightened Mr Parkinson: The Pioneering Life of a Forgotten Surgeon,” by Cherry Lewis, Ph.D., an honorary research fellow at the University of Bristol in England, will be published in the United Kingdom in May and in the United States in August. According to the book, 60,000 new cases of the disease are diagnosed in the U.S. every year, and 10,000 new cases of the disease are diagnosed in the U.K. annually.

More than 1 million people in the U.S. have Parkinson's, according to the American Parkinson Disease Association. Although the disease itself is not fatal, its complications are the 14th leading cause of death in the U.S., according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data cited by the National Parkinson Foundation.

Those interested in raising awareness and funds to support Parkinson's disease research, programs and resources can participate in NPF Moving Day walks or APDA Optimism Walks scheduled around the country from April through fall. The websites of those organizations as well as PDF's site and the website of the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research also offer additional ways to get involved beyond your current roles in caring for residents who have the disease.

Lois A. Bowers is senior editor of McKnight's Senior Living. Follow her on Twitter at @Lois_Bowers.

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