Parkinson's Disease

We offer a full range of care and support for people living with Parkinson’s disease. We understand that patients may need different levels and types of care. People with Parkinson’s disease are not alone. Primary care doctors can connect patients and their caretakers to medical care and the help they need. We provide Parkinson’s disease evaluations, treatment, physical therapy, home health care and community education.

What is Parkinson’s disease?

Parkinson’s disease impacts motor function, or how a person moves. It often includes tremors (shaking), slowing of movements, and rigidity or stiffness. It can also cause problems with vision, speech, and mentation.  Parkinson’s disease gets worse over time.

Parkinson’s disease happens when a certain brain chemical level drops. This brain chemical is called dopamine. The lack of dopamine leads to Parkinson’s symptoms.

Parkinson’s disease symptoms

A first sign of Parkinson’s disease often is shaking, or tremors, in one hand. Symptoms may start on one side of the body, and develop slowly. Signs and symptoms also may include:

  • Slower movements

  • Stiffness

  • Problems walking and standing

  • Drooping shoulders with head down

  • Losing your balance or falling easily

  • Sudden changes in handwriting

  • Shaking or tremors in the jaw or leg

People with Parkinson’s disease often have other symptoms that may differ somewhat by individual. Here are some common symptoms:

  • Sadness

  • Swallowing problems

  • Chewing problems

  • Constipation

  • Sleeping problems

  • Confused thinking

  • Feeling overly tired or rundown

Diagnosing Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease can be difficult to diagnose. Your primary care doctor or healthcare provider may send you to a neurologist for evaluation.

There is no standard test for diagnosing Parkinson’s disease. Diagnosis is based on your medical history and neurological exam. Patients may have a brain scan or lab tests to rule out other diseases.

Treatment for Parkinson’s disease

  • Medication prescribed by your doctor can control some Parkinson’s disease symptoms.

  • Deep brain stimulation may be used to relieve symptoms of Parkinson’s disease.

  • Exercise, physical therapy, and speech therapy also can improve symptoms.    

Managing Parkinson’s disease

MaineHealth offers classes that help people with Parkinson’s disease. Ask your doctor or check with your community hospital for information. Classes include help with your balance and movement, and seminars to learn about Parkinson’s treatment and research.

Rehabilitation for Parkinson’s patients

Parkinson’s disease patients may find that rehabilitation services, including physical therapy, ease symptoms. Therapy focuses on helping patients build strength and move more easily. Goals may include improving walking, balance and overall movement.

Ask your doctor or specialist about getting a referral for rehabilitation with a therapist. Often rehabilitation services are close to home, in your community.

Home health care for Parkinson's patients

MaineHealth has home care services that support patients in their homes. Services may include:

  • Nurses
  • Rehabilitation therapists
  • Help with laundry and household chores
  • Counseling and emotional support
  • Personal care help with daily activities
  • Telehealth    

Advanced treatment

Advanced treatment for Parkinson's disease

The Movement Disorders Program at Maine Medical Center in Portland has the most advanced treatment in New England for movement disorders.  Treatment includes the only deep brain stimulation (DBS) therapy in Maine. DBS sends electrical pulses to certain areas of the brain to improve symptoms. Specially trained neurologists and neurosurgeons treat patients diagnosed with:

  • Parkinson's disease
  • Atypical Parkinson's disease
  • Essential tremor
  • Dystonia