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Parkinson's disease interferes with social interactions, StatsCan finds

11/19/2014 02:39 EST | Updated 01/19/2015 05:59 EST
Parkinson’s disease was diagnosed in about 67,500 Canadians in 2010 and more than half said it harmed their social interactions, according to a new report.

Wednesday’s issue of Statistics Canada’s Health Reports looked at the prevalence, diagnosis and impact of Parkinson’s disease, which slowly robs people of their ease of movement.

"Considerable numbers" of people with Parkinson’s — 43 per cent — reported feeling embarrassed by the condition. More than a quarter — 29 per cent — reported that they felt left out of things.

"People may feel embarrassed by it because their symptoms are visible," said Suzy Wong of the agency’s health analysis division, one of the authors of the report.

"In the elderly, social participation and social engagement is really important for health and wellness and if people having this condition are feeling it negatively effects their social interactions, it might make them more reluctant to get out."

An estimated 0.2 per cent of Canadian adults in private households, or 55,000 people, and 4.9 per cent in residential institutions, 12,500, had Parkinson's disease in the 2011 and 2011 surveys.

The prevalence hasn’t really changed since the last time data was collected nearly 10 years earlier, Wong said.

The average age at which people first experienced symptoms was 64.4 years, and a diagnosis of Parkinson’s typically occurred at age 66.2.

While Parkinson’s mainly affects older adults, there is a class of younger onset patients. If someone younger than 50 goes to a doctor with tremors, a doctor might initially rule out Parkinson’s because it mainly affects older adults, Wong said, noting there are no objective ways to diagnose the disease.

Overall, men were more likely than women to have Parkinson’s disease. The main caregiver was typically a woman who lived in the same household and provided assistance daily. On average, spousal caregivers were aged 69.

Almost two-thirds of people with Parkinson’s said they had out-of-pocket expenses as a result of their condition that would not be reimbursed by insurance or government programs. Out-of-pocket expenses included dispensing fees, assistive devices, physical and speech therapy and home care.

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