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How a Social Worker Helps Parkinson's Patients Adjust to a New Life

September 03, 2021

Amanda Brill is a social worker embedded in Hartford HealthCare’s Ayer Neuroscience Institute Chase Family Movement Disorders Center. She is also the only healthcare provider in Connecticut trained to facilitate PD Self, a national self-efficacy workshop for recently diagnosed Parkinson’s disease patients and their care partners. “PD Self focuses on the premise of self-efficacy, which is the belief in one’s capacity to have influence over challenges experienced throughout life, one of those being your health,” Brill said. “The workshop helps participants understand the concept of self-efficacy and how we build it to be more robust and to use it to manage life with Parkinson’s disease.” Brill co-facilitates the workshop with a recently diagnosed Parkinson’s disease patient – giving participants a role model and someone with lived experience. The workshops include eight sessions. Before the pandemic, Brill held the workshop in person but it has since moved to a virtual platform. The sessions include presentations on self-efficacy, information about Parkinson’s disease symptoms and medications, as well as teaching therapeutic skills such as realistic optimism and symptom tracking. “A Parkinson’s disease diagnosis can feel very intimidating as if your life is ending. People don’t know what to do next,” she said. “PD Self® presents people with a self-management approach underlining the importance of setting realistic goals and outlining the small steps you will take to reach them. Participants realize they are not alone and they have influence over their disease in many ways.” As a mental healthcare clinician, Brill works with people diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease or other movement disorders and their care partners to adjust to their new normal. “With Parkinson’s disease, depression and anxiety are very common but often go undiagnosed and untreated,” she said. “Patients can have a reactive depression, but it is important to remember that people with Parkinson’s disease also have lower levels of dopamine and other neurotransmitters in the brain involved in regulating mood and behavior.” Brill works with patients and their care partners on long-term care plans. She also provides support for care partners and the stress they can face on their journey. “I’ve had participants who have said that this class should be mandatory when you receive a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease,” Brill said. “It gives participants a way to connect with others during a very uncertain and vulnerable time.” Brill added that participants are introduced to information and opportunities specific to Parkinson’s disease like boxing or PWR! Moves (Parkinson’s Wellness Recovery). “Facilitating PD Self is a gift,” she said. “It feeds my social worker soul. I watch these unbelievable transformations take place. People leave with a plan of action and a new outlook on their future. “ For more information or to register, please visit pdself.org or contact Amanda Brill at Amanda.brill@hhchealth.org.