How soon do you treat a person diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease?
Treatment should start as soon as we can get the patient referred to us. Sometimes I think the patient is not referred to us early enough. They are referred when they finally have serious speech problems. I want to see them when they are just starting to have speech problems, before they are really frustrated. I would definitely be encouraging my neurology colleagues to be referring patients earlier. Early intervention is key. I also think it helps us as clinicians to have a long-term relationship with these patients, because you really get to know them. You get to know their premorbid speech skills, language skills, and cognitive skills. This helps you to know how they are changing. They are not going to be great reporters of what is changing, but we want to try to notice those things throughout our relationship with the patient. So the earlier treatment is started, the better.
Jessica Huber Ph.D., CCC-SLP, is an Associate Professor at Purdue University in the Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences Department. Her research emphasis is on the effects of aging and motor disorders on speech production. Her current research focus is the treatment speech, balance, and cognitive changes as a result of Parkinson's disease and aging.