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6 tips for accommodating employees with Parkinson's

Parkinson's in the workplace.

Some employers may believe that if an employee is living and working with Parkinson’s disease, not only does their quality of life decrease — but so does their productivity and time spent in the office. This assumption may keep them from coming forward about their condition because they fear job loss, pity or no advancement opportunities.

According to The Parkinson’s Foundation External Site, by 2020, nearly one million Americans will be living with Parkinson’s disease. This neurodegenerative disorder affects neurons in a specific area of the brain causing tremors, slowness of movement, limb stiffness or tightness, and gait and balance problems.

It's a disease that impacts almost every aspect of life, including time spent at the office. When it comes to accommodating complex diseases and conditions like Parkinson's disease, employers need to be proactive. If proactive measures aren't taken, it can come at a cost — both to the employee and your company.

The cost of living and working with Parkinson's disease

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$25 million. The combined direct and indirect cost of Parkinson's disease, including treatment, Social Security payments and lost income in the United States alone.

$2,500. The average cost of medications for Parkinson's patients each year.

$100,000. The average cost of therapeutic surgery that will set back a Parkinson's patient.

Source: Parkinson.Org.

How you can help employees living and working with Parkinson's.

It's no secret — employees are spending more time at work than they are elsewhere — so your employees are going to expect a thing or two from their employer. According to, these are the top-six suggestions External Site employees living and working with Parkinson's disease expect from their employer. 

Living with Parkinson's disease: One woman's story

  1. Encourage health care advocacy.

    Encourage and empower your employees to play an active part in their health by developing relationships with their providers, asking questions and understanding their health plan. To see health care advocacy in action, Wellmark member, Judi Weiland's story is a great example of standing up for her own health and living her best life possible after a Parkinson's disease diagnosis.
  2. Make it easier to talk about Parkinson's.

    Provide information and training to employees (at least managers) about how to talk to someone with Parkinson's disease, the different symptoms and various accommodations.
  3. Give them a break.

    Offer flexible work breaks and work hours; allow work-from-home options when possible.
  4. Make it easier.

    Make water, paper cups and straws available throughout the building.
  5. Take accessibility measures.

    Offer “reserved” parking spaces close to the building entrances in addition to handicapped parking.
  6. Provide exercise solutions.

    Offer on-site exercise facilities or gym reimbursements. Research shows that exercise is very beneficial to people living and working with Parkinson's.

Healthy business, healthy employees

As your company’s HR or benefits administrator, you have a knack for wanting to help and educate your employees on how they can become savvy health care consumers. And companies that offer Wellmark coverage, also offer their employees the tools and resources they need to help manage their conditions, monitor claims and costs, compare quality, and find top centers for specialty care.

With myWellmark®, your confidence can be restored Opens in a new window in your employees’ knowledge of their health insurance coverage, leaving you to answer fewer questions, calls and emails about health insurance information.

If they haven’t done so already, encourage your employees to register for myWellmark Opens in a new window. Questions? Contact your authorized Wellmark account representative or email us at Send Email.