Some commonly prescribed drugs — including Compazine and Phenergan for nausea, and Reglan to stimulate bowel function after surgery — actually block dopamine and worsen symptoms in patients with Parkinson’s. Then they are at risk for falls and fractures and for aspiration pneumonia in the hospital.

Any infection can lead to delirium, because Parkinson’s patients have lowered cognitive reserve. But the drug Haldol, which hospitals frequently use to reduce confusion, is also a dopamine blocker. “Haldol is the worst drug you can give a Parkinson’s patient,” Dr. Okun said. Over all, “it can be a real mess.”

With proper treatment, most Parkinson’s patients can live long and good lives, “but stressing them with a fall or an infection or anesthesia can make them fall apart,” he said, turning supposed in-and-out hospitalizations into weeks of illness and decline. Not everyone is as lucky as Roger Anderson.


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