April is National Parkinson’s Awareness month and nearly one million Americans are living with Parkinson’s Disease. Those diagnosed have questions about life insurance eligibility.
What is Parkinson’s disease?
According to the National Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative brain disorder that progresses slowly in most people. Symptoms can take years to develop. The cause is unknown and presently there is no cure. But, treatment options such as medication and surgery may help manage symptoms. Although Parkinson’s disease itself is not fatal, its complications can be serious.
Symptoms of Parkinson’s can include the following:
- Tremor or shaking; twitching of limbs
- Small handwriting
- Loss of smell
- Thrashing in bed during sleep
- Stiffness in body, arms or legs
- A soft or very low voice
- Blank stare or not blinking
- Low blood pressure
- Stooping, leaning and slouching
There is no one way to diagnose the disease. However, there are various types of tests used in combination to give insight. Treatment is not standard, which means that medication and therapy is used based on the patient’s symptoms.
Although life insurance can be difficult to rate if it is a slow progression with dementia, it is possible. Underwriting is based on the degrees of severity:
- Mild: Minimal localized tremor only (i.e. confined to fingers), no rigidity, no or minimal progression, no treatment required
- Moderate: More widespread tremor, slight rigidity, no or minimal disability, self-reliant, slow progression, good response to treatment
- Marked: Widespread tremor, moderate rigidity, greater disability but no reliance on others, slow progression, good response to treatment
- Severe: Intellectual deterioration, dementia, severe disability or rapid progression
Age also plays a part in rating. The earlier the diagnosis, the worse off a patient is from a rating standpoint. Most people will be declined if the stage is severe. A good option would be guaranteed life insurance, if available due to age, to cover final expenses.
How can you make a difference in raising awareness for PD this month?
The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation® (PDF®) is calling upon the community to shape research and therapy development during Parkinson’s Awareness Month. People with Parkinson’s disease and care partners are invited to share their priorities for research through PDF’s Second Annual Community Choice Research Awards from Wednesday, April 1 until Thursday, April 30, by visiting www.pdf.org/communitychoice.
“Like many other people living with Parkinson’s disease, I have often wished for the opportunity to share my priorities directly with researchers. This April, through the PDF Community Choice Research Awards, we the patients — those who are most impacted by research — have the power to exercise our voices on issues of paramount concern to us,” said Diane Cook of Denver, CO, a member of PDF’s People with Parkinson’s Advisory Council and board member of ProjectSpark, which is partnering with PDF to fund the awards. “I urge members of the Parkinson’s disease community to submit their research priorities. Now is our time to speak up.”
Despite promising research, there is neither a cure nor medications to reverse its course. Moreover, it takes an average of 14 years for new therapies to move from the laboratory to the pharmacy. PDF believes that research and therapy development can be more focused and efficient when we ask people who live with Parkinson’s disease which issues are most important to them.
“People with Parkinson’s disease need solutions now. We know from PDF’s first ‘people’s choice’ awards that soliciting community feedback is a powerful way to align what matters most to patients with what is studied by scientists,” PDF President Robin Anthony Elliott said. “We urge people with Parkinson’s disease and care partners: if you have questions that you think scientists should be spending time on, please share your insights to help us solve, treat and end Parkinson’s disease.”