Northwest NEWS

February 7, 2000

Features

Regional Parkinson's Center to open at Evergreen

by Deborah Stone

   In the Puget Sound region, more than 50,000 people live with Parkinson's disease and similar movement disorders.

   Parkinson's is a progressive and degenerative disease that affects one's ability to move his/her body. Symptoms include uncontrollable tremors and rigidity of the joints. Mobility lessens over the years and many patients eventually end up in wheelchairs, as they can no longer walk.

   There is no test for Parkinson's. Only when the first symptoms occur, can doctors diagnose the disease. Currently, there is no cure; however, medical researchers have high hopes that the key for halting the progression of this disease might be in the use of cell transplant therapy.

   Unfortunately, there are few expert medical resources and a definite lack of comprehensive treatment programs dedicated to this disease in the Northwest. In response to the need for quality Parkinson's care, Evergreen Healthcare, in association with the Northwest Parkinson's Foundation (NWPF), will open a Parkinson's Center.

   The Center, slated to open in late March, will provide state-of-the-art diagnosis, treatment, education, family support, and research for Parkinson's and other similar movement disorders. The facility is adjacent to the hospital medical center so that interdisciplinary treatment, family and patient support, and continuity of care can be provided to the fullest possible extent.

   "Evergreen's Parkinson Center will provide cutting edge treatment and will participate in regional and national research partnerships, but first and foremost, it will place the patient and family at the heart of the program," says Tony McCormick, Evergreen's Manager of Neurological Services.

   According to McCormick, the Center will expand the continuum of care available at Evergreen by adding to the comprehensive rehabilitation services, neurological services, and senior health services already in place. It will use existing resources such as HIRE (Head Injury and Rehabilitation Center), Evergreen Care Network, Home Health Services, Evergreen Hospice Services, and the Community Health Education Department.

   "HIRE currently occupies the facility that will be used for the Parkinson's Center," explains McCormick. "This building is ninety percent unoccupied most of the time, because over the years, there has been a transition in care with head injury cases. We now do most of our work in the community. We go to people, instead of them coming to us. Having an existing facility available that is equipped to deal with people suffering from neurological problems was a big plus in the creation of this new Center. In addition, we already have a wonderful team of dedicated clinicians with expertise in delivering neurological services."

   The impetus for the creation of the Center came from Bill Bell, executive director of the Northwest Parkinson's Foundation, and Craig Howard, development director. Both men have mothers with Parkinson's Disease and understand the needs of patients with this condition. They felt that the services in the area were scattered all over and difficult to piece together.

   "We saw a need to put it all under one roof and make it easier on people to access the necessary services," explains Howard. "Evergreen had the place, the people, and the commitment, so it seemed like a perfect marriage. Patients will be able to go into the Center and be evaluated to determine how far along they are with the disease. They will be able to utilize the services of physical, occupational, and speech therapists, as well as a neuropsychologist, and all are experts in the field of movement disorders. The idea is to be comprehensive in the care offered."

   Recognizing that treatment of Parkinson's disease has changed over the past decade, Evergreen's Parkinson's Center will strive to care for the whole family and improve the quality of life for those who are severely health-challenged.

   "We are sensitive to the changing healthcare environment," McCormick says, "and with compassion, we will provide services that enhance the independence, self-sufficiency, productivity, and quality of life of those we serve."