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How doctors approach patients at key junctures, such as when their symptoms worsen, is important in dealing with their depression, said Christensen, who is state volunteer director for the Minnesota Parkinson’s Action Network. She also wrote a book in 2004 for people newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
“I know people who, when they’ve been diagnosed, the doctor has said, ‘Well, there is some medication, but it only works for five years and then you’re done,’ ” she said. “If you get a message like that from the medical establishment, it’s not exactly a day brightener.”
Nance said there is no five-year window for Parkinson’s medications. Many of her patients have lived healthy, active lives — some for more than 30 years. While depression can complicate Parkinson’s, the flip side is that patients have discovered that exercise and treatment can address both disorders.
“Depression and Parkinson’s disease are treatable and, I think, sometimes on Day 1 of a diagnosis, people fall into despair,” she said. “If they just get through that, get the support they need, they can live on to find out there still is a tomorrow and that there can be a better tomorrow. The tragedy is Robin Williams didn’t live long enough to experience that.”
Jeremy Olson • 612-673-7744