Iowa Geriatric Education Center Iowa Geriatric Education Center

Standardized Patient Actor Training

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Section 4 - The Parkinson's Disease Patient

 Older African-American woman WHAT IS PARKINSON'S DISEASE?

Parkinson's disease damages brain cells that produce dopamine, a chemical that tells the body when and how to move. Because there is not enough dopamine, controlling movement becomes difficult. Therefore, Parkinson's disease is classified as a movement disorder.

Parkinson's disease is a progressive disease. The symptoms start slowly and get worse over time. They include the following:

  • Tremors - shaking or rhythmic movements that are most often seen in the hands, particularly when at rest
  • Rigid limbs and trunk, perhaps with feelings of weakness or aching
  • Slowness of movement
  • Poor balance and coordination, often with a shuffling walk

Not all patients will experience every one of the above symptoms, although they typically develop at least two of them as the disease progresses.

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