Improving social support, recognizing the importance of social interaction in Parkinson’s disease: Neal Hermanowicz, MD


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“Some people with this diagnosis tend to withdraw from social relationships, and that’s not good. All of us who have been doing this for a while have had this intuitive sense, but now we have data of our study showing that it is an important element.

Although the benefits of socialization have been difficult to quantify, many experts agree that social support is beneficial for patients with movement disorders. Due to restrictions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, social isolation has become a more common theme for these patients and remains a challenge that clinicians are trying to address. A study by the Parkinson’s and Movement Disorder (PMD) Alliance found that decreased social support from outside the household during this period was associated with increased sadness/depression and anxiety in patients with Parkinson’s disease (PD), compared to sustained levels of social assistance (P <.0001 for both>1

Data also revealed that this decline was associated with the burden of several motor symptoms of PD as well as non-motor symptoms, such as a decline in memory, problem solving, or communication (P = 0.0009), new or worsened confusion (P P = 0.018). Lead researcher Neal Hermanowicz, MD, believes that above all findings, the biggest takeaway should be the valued importance of social connections. As a neurologist at Christus St. Vincent Health System, he admitted it can be difficult to remind patients of its importance, but it’s something all clinicians, caregivers and patients should be aware of.

In a recent interview with NeurologyLive®, Hermanowicz discussed ways the clinician community can improve the social support PD patients receive, as well as the benefits of social connectedness that may not be depicted by the data. He also highlighted the emphasis on this aspect of care for young neurologists in training, noting that many conversations have traditionally been dominated by the study of the pathology and pharmacology of this disease.

1. Hermanowicz N, Ospina MC, Torres-Yaghi Y, et al. Impact of isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic on the burden of patients with Parkinson’s disease: a PMD Alliance survey. Treat neuropsychiatric diseases. 2022;18:633-643. doi:10.2147/NDT.S351691

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