Parkinson’s nurse ‘privileged’ and ‘humbled’ by patients

Parkinsons Nurse Caroline McMahon pictured at Limavady Health Centre. 2107JM01
Parkinsons Nurse Caroline McMahon pictured at Limavady Health Centre. 2107JM01

“A privilege” and “humbling” is how Derry city native Caroline McMahon describes her work as Parkinson’s disease nurse with the Western Health and Social Care Trust.

Based at Limavady Health Centre, Caroline covers the Western Trust Northern sector, an area which includes Derry, Strabane, Limavady and Dungiven. There are approximately 250 patients known to the service.

“It is a privilege to be able to work with people with Parkinson’s disease,” she told the “Journal”. “They have shown great support to me and I greatly appreciate this. The manner in which I am welcomed into their lives and trusted is humbling.”

Caroline started her nursing career in Altnagelvin Western Area college of Nursing in 1982 and developed an interest in neurology, although she gained experience in other areas of nursing. She completed a Neuromedical, Neurosurgical nursing course In Edinburgh and has since completed the diploma in Parkinson’s disease management.

“Through a very convoluted route I achieved the career I had aspired to as a Parkinson’s disease nurse working with people who have Parkinson’s disease which is a progressive neurodegenerative condition,” she said.

Her role as a Parkinson’s disease nurse with the Western Health and Social Care Trust (Western Trust) is “very varied”.

“I strive to help improve the quality of life for the person with Parkinson’s disease by providing education and support to the person and their family/carers from the point of diagnosis,” she explained.

“It is important to remember that patient age groups can range from people in their 30s and upwards. The average age of diagnosis is around 60 years. A large part of my time is dedicated to medication management and clinical monitoring as this is the mainstay of treatment for the condition. I link very closely with the neurologists and Care of Older Person consultants in Altnagelvin Hospital and also in Belfast as some patients attend clinics there. I liaise closely with my colleagues in Allied Health and refer appropriately to speech therapy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy as Parkinson’s care is a multi disciplinary approach.”

An important part of Caroline’s role is providing education sessions to professionals and carers in public and private sectors.

Although based in the community, she links with Altnagelvin Hospital, Waterside Hospital, nursing and residential homes when there are patients being cared for at these facilities. There is also the voluntary sector with Parkinson’s UK and the local Foyle branch.

Describing her typical day, she said it is always busy.

“It varies from providing telephone support to patients, attending neurology clinics, where patients are reviewed and I attend nurse clinics. I also provide home visits where patients are unable to attend clinics,” she said.

“Teaching sessions are also a part of my daily activity. These sessions are vital to improve the skills and knowledge of those working/caring for the people living with Parkinson’s disease. The recent increase to full time hours has helped provide a more continuous service for people living with Parkinson’s disease.”

Caroline not only enjoys her job, but draws inspiration from her patients.

“I have been inspired by their determination, resilience, stamina and ability to remain optimistic and get on with life which are all attributes we could all apply to our own lives. The interaction which I have with my patients is the best part and my aim is to help improve the quality of life for the person living with Parkinson’s disease and to promote independence for as long as possible.” Caroline McMahon is based in Limavady Health Centre and can be reached (028) 7776 1140 or via e-mail at caroline.mcmahon@westerntrust.hscni.net