Handling Parkinson's Disease on the Job
Staying on your medication regimen and getting regular exercise can help keep you working despite your Parkinson's disease. But the day may come when you need to retire from the workforce — so be prepared.
By Dennis Thompson Jr.
Medically Reviewed by Niya Jones, MD, MPH
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An important treatment goal for someone with Parkinson's disease is to maintain as normal a life as possible, including while at work. Through the use of medications and physical therapy, many people with Parkinson's disease can manage their symptoms effectively and continue to function at work for years — and in some cases, even decades.
Staying at Work With Parkinson’s Disease
Every working person who receives a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease has to decide what to tell their boss and when. You should consider this decision carefully, based on your personal knowledge of the company you work for and your particular relationship with your supervisors.
If you believe you will receive support that will allow you to remain on the job, it would be in your best interest to share your diagnosis early on. Otherwise, you might want to keep it to yourself until your Parkinson's disease symptoms begin to interfere with your ability to get work done.
Keeping your Parkinson's disease symptoms under control can help you to stay at your job for as long as possible. In addition to taking your medications consistently, consider working with an occupational therapist to help you maintain function at work.
Occupational therapists may bolster your skills at work by:
- Showing you alternate ways of completing necessary tasks
- Introducing you to appropriate tools that can help make your job more manageable
Parkinson’s Disease: Qualifying for Disability
As your Parkinson's disease progresses, you may eventually reach the point where you qualify for protection under the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). The ADA states that employers with at least 15 employees must reasonably accommodate people with a disability — meaning a physical or mental limitation that significantly interferes with daily activities.
Once your Parkinson's disease begins to disrupt your ability to complete tasks at work, it's necessary to tell your employer about the diagnosis. Your employer can help keep you at work by:
- Providing you with special equipment
- Allowing you additional breaks
- Altering your work environment
- Adjusting your schedule if necessary
Parkinson’s Disease: Quitting Your Job
You are the only one who will know when it's time for you to leave work due to your Parkinson's disease. This decision should depend on the severity of your symptoms, and also on the type of job you perform. An office worker, for instance, may find it easier to stay on the job than a house painter or truck driver who requires physical strength and fine motor skills to complete their work.
When you do decide to leave work, contact an attorney to review your legal rights and to get information on applying for disability.
Parkinson’s Disease Benefits Programs
There are a number of benefit programs available for people with disabilities, and you should consider applying for them. These include:
- Social Security Disability Insurance
- Medicare and Medicaid
- Supplemental Security Income
- State Health Insurance Counseling and Assistance Programs
For more information on transitioning out of your job and applying for one or more of these preograms, go to the .
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