Kirk's Blog

parkinsons best blogs badge

Kirk started writing articles for his blog around the time his first book was published (September 2011). Not having any other bright ideas at the time, he adopted the book title as his “brand” for the blog. Over time, Shaky Paws Grampa (SPG) has become his “identity” in the PD world. The good news is that he hasn’t had to fight anybody for it and there was no competition for the web address (understandably).

He didn’t have any clear goals in mind for the blog when he started other than to make his target audience the “PD world”, opting to write about what ever inspired him at the moment. Over time, various themes emerged:

Book or writing-related
PD-related information
Clinical research study advocacy/participation
Cognition issues
Living with PD-personal
PD meeting/conference announcements
SPG speaking engagements, media interviews, and webinars
Calls to action

Three years later, he has posted 120 articles that have been viewed by readers from over 60 countries around the world.
Kirk Hall

Palliative Care and Neurology: Striving for justice




window cover 150x225


I am happy to report that the 3- year, 3-site Parkinson's disease palliative care clinical research study has achieved its goals for number of participants.  Interviews have been completed and we are about to start the analysis phase.  I an part of a patient/caregiver advisory council that is participating in the study.

I wrote a palliative care chapter  for Window of Opportunity: Living with the reality of Parkinson's and the threat of dementia ( I have been told that sometimes I "overthink" things.  As I thought about that, I could see that it is true.  However, there are some cases where I have spent a lot of time thinking about a subject and it has produced something that seems to be worth the effort.  This is an example:


Chapter 13:  Palliative Care and Neurology: Striving for justice



Below are excerpts from an email that I sent to Dr. Kluger in May 2013:

I have been thinking about our conversation on Monday regarding the desirability of doctors having a more personal understanding of patients.  Even if a doctor sees the potential benefits (which I do not think they all do), this would require a high level of commitment in a world where disposable time is a precious commodity.  I can understand that some are reluctant to break through the “protective space” between them and patients.  By doing this, they risk losing some degree of their clinical objectivity that some would argue is necessary to provide optimum care.  I, and Dr. Graboys (and you, I think) would argue the opposite.  How can a doctor hope to provide “optimum care” if they look no further than what is written on charts and records and reflected in tests?  Yes, there is risk involved.  Including the risk of having an emotional stake in the lives (and deaths) of their patients.  And yet, isn’t that what being a doctor is supposed to be about?  Making a difference in the quality of the lives of patients? Is it really possible to do one without the other?  It seems that the Hippocratic Oath supports this concept:

‘That above all else I will serve the highest interests of my patients through the

practice of my science and my art;”


Taking it a step further, this goes on to state:

“That I will be an advocate for patients in need and strive for justice in the

care of the sick.”


How can a doctor advocate properly for a patient, let alone “strive for justice”, if they do not “know” them?

This “striving for justice” is, in my opinion, central to the issue of what palliative care should be all about. 

A note of explanation is required here.  My comments to Dr. Kluger involved a subject I have thought about a great deal and about which I have strong feelings, which probably explains the outspoken tone.  I have nostalgic “Welby-esque” (people under 50 will likely have no idea what I am talking about-this refers to a TV show, Marcus Welby MD[i], about a family doctor from the 60’s) memories of trips to the doctor in my youth when doctors knew their patients on a personal level.  Over the years, as these visits have evolved from patient-centered care to what I call “industrialized medicine”[ii], where doctors are increasingly specialized, work in teams and rarely have the time or inclination to “know” their patients, I have experienced a sense of loss and even betrayal.  It has been an insidious change (and not all bad) that should have been predictable based on the amount of time that doctors have to spend on paperwork that, along with serving a useful purpose, is done to satisfy the requirements of insurance companies and protect themselves from lawsuits.

When I think about patient-centered care I am reminded of my former life in the retail and direct marketing business world.  It became second nature for me to approach problems using a framework that included strategic planning[iii] and management by objectives (MBO)[iv].  I learned the importance of being “goal-directed”.  As technology was developed to allow more sophistication, marketing evolved from a “shotgun” approach using a mix of media in an attempt to maximize business with a broad audience to “targeted marketing”[v] where we began to understand the importance of knowing who our customer was and designing promotions that would appeal to them.  The next step was the era of total quality management (TQM)[vi], where businesses began to recognize that they could maximize customer loyalty by understanding more about the needs and wants of customer segments and devising strategies to consistently meet or exceed their expectations.  Today, this approach has been further refined as customer relationship management (CRM)[vii] involving advanced technologies (including “cloud-based” sales & marketing information systems) that provide detailed, ongoing insights regarding their target customers.  Which leads me (finally) to my point: To  succeed in today’s highly competitive global environment where customers have more choices than ever, businesses MUST be “customer-centric”[viii], thus having the RIGHT goals is more important than ever.

So the business world has learned the importance of understanding who their customer is, communicating with them on an ongoing basis to understand what is important to them, and developing strategic plans designed to consistently meet or exceed their expectations.  It seems to me that the same principles apply to patient-centered care.  The customer is the patient and, secondarily, the patient’s family (not the hospital or insurance companies).  I am not trying to be condescending or “preachy”, but I feel that I owe it to my fellow patients to be clear about this.  There must be communication with patients to understand their needs and wants and this must be factored into a plan for delivery of outstanding medical care using the best available knowledge and technology.  As a result, this plan should include a commitment to patient empathy and engagement.  Finally, the plan should be designed to allow providers to obtain feedback from patients that will enable them to determine the degree to which they are meeting their own goals.

Some may say I am dreaming.  Like John Lennon wrote in Imagine, I’m not the only one.  I’m not saying this will be easy or that it can be achieved overnight.  I am particularly worried right now as we stand on the brink of evolving to socialized medicine[ix] in the U.S.  The last endnote provides a list of pros and cons on this subject, which will enable the reader to reach their own conclusion about whether this is good or bad.

I know that some hospitals and doctors are already utilizing at least some of the strategies I have covered.  For example, my hospital (University of Colorado Hospital) emails a short survey to me following each visit to get feedback on their performance and my level of satisfaction.  I am particularly encouraged by a program for neurological palliative care that Dr. Kluger started at UCH in March 2013 (before he had the benefit of my “wisdom” as expressed in the email I sent him in May).  To me this reflects the possibility that our thoughts have been evolving in similar directions on parallel paths and that we have reached a confluence precipitated by his involvement with this book.

At the beginning of September 2013, Benzi (we are now on a first name basis) enlisted me to help publicize a presentation he was planning titled “Palliative Care and Neurology: Time for a paradigm shift”.  He know that I was disappointed that I was unable to attend, so he invited me to a symposium he was hosting on September 21, 2013 for Epilepsy and Movement Disorders that would include his Palliative Care presentation.  I was extremely energized and encouraged by what he had to say to his fellow neurology professionals.  Since then I learned that he is working with a Canadian colleague, Dr. Janis Miyasaki, on development of this new model.  Elements of interest to me include:

  • The need for palliative care for PD patients begins at diagnosis, when they are typically given minimal information and then “set adrift” until their next appointment (typically in about 3 months).  This is a time when the patient and family often needs to ask questions and process predictable emotions.
  • The need for palliative care continues to grow from time of diagnosis and at some point may transition to a focus on hospice (part of the palliative care spectrum, but not the same thing).
  • The primary goal of palliative care is prevention and relief of suffering for patients and their families including control of pain and other physical symptoms as well as psychological, social, and spiritual issues.  It affirms and supports life while addressing death as a normal and expected outcome.
  • Palliative care can be used alone or in conjunction with curative treatments and requires a team approach (neurologist, internist, psychologist, social worker, hospice, clergy, etc.).
  • Caregiver needs must be addressed, including spiritual needs and demoralization.
  • Most neurologists receive little or no palliative care training.
  • Communication with patients and families is a core issue including adequate time for questions, explaining clearly the meaning of a diagnosis, providing information on where to go for support, and appropriate delivery of bad news.
  • Many doctors are reluctant to discuss difficult subjects like cognitive issues or death with patients.
  • Hospice is the last stage in the palliative care spectrum that includes end of life care for the patient and family and a focus on comfort and quality of life.


Patients need to view palliative care as a “two-way street” and learn what they need to do.  There are a variety of steps available to take in preparation for death that enable us to manage this transition and minimize problems for our loved ones, including wills, living wills, establishment of trusts, and more[x].  Our church had a presentation on a type of planning that involves creation of a document called “Five Wishes” that would communicate information to a trusted individual that could include burial preferences, donation of body parts, memorial service preferences, disposition of valued personal items, elimination of unwanted online footprints, handling of computer files, and any other specific guidelines regarding end of life wishes.  Of course, we have the option to let someone else worry about these details because we prefer to not think about them.  This does not seem fair or considerate to me.  I chose to share a “last wishes” document with my older son along with the comment that this will hopefully not be needed for many years.

Families need to be as knowledgeable as possible regarding their loved one’s illness so they can advocate for them appropriately to the end.  As much as we would like to rely on doctors and nurses to know everything they need to know to provide optimum care, that is not always possible.  They need to be aware that most patients enter hospice too late or not at all.  When asked after their loved one has passed what they would do differently, many families say that they would have engaged hospice sooner.  Talk to your doctor about how to know when the time is right.  Understand that, even though it is difficult, the time will come when it is no longer appropriate to try to prolong life.  At that point, the objective should shift to meeting the patient’s emotional and spiritual needs as death approaches.  This is the time when advance directives become crucial for allowing the patient to die according to his or her wishes.  This is obviously in the best interests of the patient and also benefits the family by facilitating closure and a sense of peace.

The question regarding a patient’s wishes about how he or she wants to die and his or her right to choose is controversial due to cultural, religious, and legal constraints.  It seems to me that we are at a point where it is appropriate for reasonable people to examine some of our long-standing beliefs about moral and legal restrictions placed on the way people with terminal illnesses (including dementia) choose to make end of life choices and decisions.  Dementia poses a serious problem on the verge of being epidemic, the financial and emotional costs of which are significant.  If an individual faces the possibility of eventually being unable to communicate with or even recognize those they love most with no reasonable hope of recovery, should they not have the option of developing a plan to end their own life?  Should they be forced to suffer needlessly while their families watch helplessly?

I would urge patients and families to plan a meeting with their doctor and other hospice team members to discuss this subject openly in order to help the patient reach a decision that is appropriate for him or her and develop consensus with family members.  This should include a frank discussion about how a “natural death” is likely to occur.  Have the doctor explain euthanasia (not legal in the U.S., but available in Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg), physician assisted suicide (legal currently in OR, VT, WA, and MT), and terminal sedation.  Also discuss the pros and cons of aggressive symptom treatment and life-prolonging strategies.  Once the patient reaches a decision, his or her wishes should be legally documented in writing to avoid any future complications.

Regarding the spiritual component of palliative care, UCH reports that their studies indicate that spiritual support services and well-being are associated with higher patient quality of life.  Over 70% of PD patients reported that spirituality/faith was important to their lives and over 50%use prayer to help with their health concerns.

Learning about Benzi’s plans for palliative care at my hospital and his thoughts about the need to understand and honor patient end-of-life choices has given me a tremendous sense of peace about the process of dying.  It was the piece that had been missing.  The other piece already in place is my faith.

Window of Opportunity: Living with the Reality of Parkinson’s and the Threat of Dementia

Copyright © 2013 Kirk W. Hall

ISBN 978-0-9842063-4-6


Share this article:

Continue reading
150 Hits
Kirk Hall

Parkinson’s and Pain

If you have PD and are experiencing pain, you are not alone.  According to the Parkinson’s Foundation (PF), 85% f people with PD “report pain as a troubling symptom”.  PF goes on to state:

“Pain can be classified as nociceptive, which relates to tissue damage, implicating the pain receptors in the skin, bones or surrounding tissues; as neuropathic, indicating pain arising in nerves; or as a mixed pain syndrome involving both nociceptive and neuropathic pain. Your Parkinson’s specialist, working with a pain specialist, may select treatments based on the nociceptive versus neuropathic classification.

In Parkinson’s, most pain experiences are nociceptive — seeming to result from tissue that is injured or has the potential to be damaged. Causes include persistent tremor, muscle rigidity, dystonia, musculoskeletal injury (i.e., sprains, bruises, bone fractures resulting from a fall etc.), burns and inflammation. The pain is typically well-localized to the affected body part; it may fluctuate with medication dosing. Pain caused by dystonia can be diagnosed when there is visible twisting, cramping or posturing of the painful body part. The most common areas of the body where people with Parkinson’s experience pain are the neck, upper back and extremities.

In Parkinson’s, neuropathic pain is less common, and includes conditions not directly related to PD, such as shingles, cancer pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, diabetic neuropathy, and peripheral neuropathy. The pain may present as burning, numbness and tingling, sharp sensations, or electric shock qualities. Pain due to nerve or root disease is most commonly caused by akathisia, an extreme inner restlessness.”

Pain had not been a significant problem for until a few months ago.  Following my final surgery for a detached retina in my left eye in May, I was unable to engage in much physical activity.  The first pain I noticed was in my right groin area.  I have had this type of pain in the past with hernias (on both sides).  However, I had hernia surgery on that side a few years ago.  I have also had peripheral neuropathy for about seven years (numbness in feet and legs plus cold feet and hands) and wondered if that could have anything to do with it.  After visits to both my movement disorder doctor and PCP, I had imaging that revealed a hernia in my LEFT side and significant arthritis in both hip joints.  My PCP said that the groin pain on the right side could be due to the arthritis and referred me to physical therapy (PT).

Before I had my first PT visit, I started to have worse pain in my right shoulder.  So my PT visits to date have focused on that problem.  The therapist is pretty sure the problem is inflammation in the tendon and is having me do exercises and alternate hot and cold treatments,  The pain is worst when I get up in the morning, which apparently could be arthritis.

Meanwhile, I have scheduled hernia surgery for early December.  Then, because nothing else was going on, my DBS battery decided it was time to be replaced.  So I am having THAT surgery next week.

On top of THAT (when it rains it pours) I jammed my right knee jumping off a rock (don’t ask).  I didn’t have the nerve to tell the PT about that, but thankfully it seems to be healing.  I am also starting to detect the type of pain that came out of nowhere (no apparent cause) in my left shoulder.

I have been attempting through all this get as much exercise as possible by walking and light workouts at our community recreation center (aerobic, strength, and stretching).  I get very stiff if I don’t stretch and normally take 800 mg of ibuprofen every night, which I can’t do for the next week due to the aforementioned surgery.

My movement disorder doctor has researched the topic of medical marijuana quite thoroughly.  His comments corroborated articles I have read that reported this “medication” is effective for reducing inflammation and can help with sleep and constipation (both are a BIG deal in my world).  Learn more about this subject at  I am going to try it.  I think I am correct in saying I can save 40% with paperwork I will receive based on my doctor’s approval.  He also says it is important to buy from a reputable (your guess is as good as mine) and continue to use the same one to increase your chances of product continuity (it can vary from place to place).

That’s all I have to say about that.

Share this article:

Continue reading
155 Hits