Susan J. Penner, RN, MN, MPA, DrPH, CNL

Author, Economics and Financial Management for Nurses and Nurse Leaders, Second Edition, 2013.  Dr. Penner is also a PD caregiver.

Many people think that Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a rare disorder that only causes tremors and slowness.  Part I of this series explains that up to one million Americans may be suffering from PD, and the numbers are likely to grow.  This post assesses the dollar and other costs of PD in the United States. Nurses must understand the full impact of PD to more effectively help address this health concern.

Estimates of the annual costs of PD in America range from $14.4 billion to nearly $25 billion.  These estimates include both medical and non-medical costs.  Medical costs include office visits, hospitalization, medications and surgical implants that help control PD symptoms.  The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation estimates that on average, a person with PD spends $2,500 a year on medications. A 2011 review of the literature reports that persons with PD are hospitalized more frequently and have longer length of stay.

Non-medical PD costs include lost productivity, lost income, disability payments and expenses to pay caregivers and travel for medical appointments.  Families also bear considerable costs in providing caregiving services, especially when PD causes dementia or mobility problems.  These non-medical costs can mount up quickly.  As PD often worsens over time, the medical and non-medical costs are expected to increase as PD patients live longer.

PD patients and families often lack access to specialty care for diagnosis, treatment and information.  A 2014 Harris Poll survey reported that persons who see a movement disorder specialist are more likely to be accurately diagnosed with PD.  The survey found that many patients are not well informed about motor or non-motor symptoms, and only 28% of PD patients are currently treated by a movement disorder specialist. Nurses know that the lack of good diagnosis, treatment and patient education can lead to higher costs of care in the long run.

The growing numbers of persons with PD and the growing costs of PD present challenges for patients, families and the US health care system.  In the next part of this series, we explore ways that nurses can address these challenges in the hospital and in the community.