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The Joyce Oberdorf Interview (Page 1 of 3)

The Joyce Oberdorf Interview
President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Parkinson Foundation

Gary Barg: Can you tell me the importance of family caregivers to people living with Parkinsonís, and what the foundation does to help Parkinsonian family caregivers?

Joyce Oberdorf: Absolutely, Parkinsonís is a chronic neurogenic disease. That means that it is a marathon. It is a marathon on the part of the individual affected and it affects the entire family. So the entire family, over time, over five years, ten years, decades, gets involved in ensuring that this person is mobile, can get around, and they are not falling. Ensuring that they are not depressed, which can also happen. Their mood, their memoryóit is a disease that affects every part of the body and, really, every part of the family.

So at NPF we recognize that. We have a comprehensive care model of an approach to care with disease. We promote this through our Centers of Excellence Network, and also through our Chapter Network throughout the U.S. And in both of those, we tend to offer a comprehensive care solution that focuses on the entire, the holistic approach, the individual and their needs. And the holistic approach to the family. Our chapters will offer education symposiums, they will offer support sessions for caregivers, sharing circles. For people with the disease, they will offer exercise and wellness classes. Exercise, we have found, has been tremendously important in actually slowing the impact of the disease. So all of this is really an attempt to involve the whole family. And they also offer, I would say, information referrals to local resources that could help the family.

Gary Barg: Are there any advances in treating Parkinsonís in the pipeline? I mean, what can people expect to see in coming years to help?

Joyce Oberdorf: You know, I would tell you yes, there are, and for the first time in a number of years, I am optimistic. There are advances in treatment that may not sound sexy, but actually will have a tremendous improvement on the lives of people with Parkinsonís. And those include better delivery mechanisms of current drug therapies such as an insulin-like pump for one of the medications. That one version would go subcutaneously and the other one would go in through the intestines. And those would dramatically improve response to medication. They are particularly good for people in the sort of intermediate to advanced stages where there are so few therapies. To give those folks back a few hours of really vital quality of life, every single day, would be a miracle.

So those advances really are on the horizon. By ďon the horizon,Ē I mean within the next one to three years on the market. And in addition to that, there has actually been a revitalization of both gene therapy and stem cell treatments. There will be the first clinical trial in stem cells that has happened in a very long time. Because people, scientists have figured out some ways to make them work better. So we are all very excited about the therapeutic possibilities down the road as well.

Gary Barg: That is amazing that there is a possibility for support just around the corner, in one to three years.

Joyce Oberdorf: Yes, yes, absolutely. And it all becomes possible because pharmaceutical companies have not given up looking at better ways to solve some of the delivery problems of drugs. For many people with Parkinsonís, taking an oral medication is difficult for them. They do not digest properly; the food interferes with it. So if you get it directly into the system, it will just have tremendously better absorption and efficacy.

Listen to the Intervivew

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