Coping with Parkinson's

Parkinson’s disease is getting more and more common in our community and it is a disease that is also difficult to understand and complicated to deal with. 

Parkinson’s disease shows symptoms in early stages, but in most cases it’s difficult to diagnose in the early stages. Most of the time people link the early symptoms to something else and think the symptoms will go away on their own. Until they don’t! 

So what I want to share with you today is: how you can identify the symptoms early. I will be sharing some tips and inform you on what to do when you or your loved is diagnosed with this disease.

But first a little insight on this disease. For you to know how to deal with it, you should first understand it. So here goes:

Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological condition that impairs movement and is recognized as a movement disorder. It is the result of insufficient dopamine, which is caused because nerve cells in the brain that produce this chemical have died. Without dopamine, movements become slower, so people with Parkinson’s take longer to do things than others (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, 2006).

The condition was first described in 1817 by James Parkinson, in his essay The Shaking Palsy (Morris and Rose, 1989).

Although it is not yet known exactly why people develop Parkinson’s, researchers suspect it is a combination of genetic and environmental factors that cause the dopamine-producing nerve cells to die (Stoessl, 1999).

Parkinson’s can affect different people in different ways, with symptoms and severity varying from person to person. As a result, each individual will have a carefully balanced combination of medication to control and manage their symptoms. If patients do not receive their medication on time, the consequences can be serious. Their ability to manage symptoms may be lost; for example, they may suddenly be unable to eat or drink, get out of bed or go to the toilet independently. The worst outcome would be complete inability to move and it can take a long time to regain symptom control.

So, now that you have little insight on this disease, I want to share with you how you can detect some early symptoms:


A tremor while at rest is a common early sign of Parkinson's disease. What is normal? Shaking can be normal after lots of exercise, if you are stressed or if you have been injured. 

Small handwriting You may notice the way you write words on a page has changed, such as letter sizes are smaller and the words are crowded together. What is normal? Sometimes writing can change as you get older, if you have stiff hands or fingers or poor vision.

Loss of smell If you seem to have more trouble smelling foods like bananas, dill pickles or licorice, you should ask your doctor about Parkinson's. What is normal? Your sense of smell can be changed by a cold, flu or a stuffy nose, but it should come back when you are better.

Trouble sleeping Sudden movements during sleep or if you are acting out on dreams while you are asleep may be a sign of Parkinson's disease. What is normal? It is normal for everyone to have a night when they 'toss and turn' instead of sleeping. Similarly, quick jerks of the body when initiation sleep or when in lighter sleep are common and often normal.

Trouble moving or walking The feeling of being stiff in your body, arms and legs. Other people start noticing your arms don’t swing like they used to when you walk. If the stiffness does not go away when you move, it can be a sign of Parkinson’s Disease. Another early sign might be stiffness or pain in your shoulders or hips. What is normal? If you have injured your arm or shoulder, you may not be able to use it as well until it is healed, or another illness like arthritis might cause the same symptom.

Constipation Straining to move your bowels can be an early sign of Parkinson's disease and you should talk to your doctor. What is normal? If you do not have enough water or fiber in your diet, it can cause problems in the bathroom. Also, some medicines, especially those used for pain, will cause constipation. If there is no other reason such as diet or medicine that would cause you to have trouble moving your bowels, you should speak with your doctor.

A soft lower voice If there has been a change in your voice you should see your doctor about whether it could be Parkinson's disease. Sometimes you might think other people are losing their hearing, when really you are speaking more softly. What is normal? A chest cold or other virus can cause your voice to sound different, but you should go back to sounding the same when you get over your cough or cold.

Masked face If you constantly have a serious, depressed or mad look on your face even when you are not in a bad mood are early symptoms on Parkinson’s disease. This is often called facial masking. What is normal? Some medicines can cause you to have the same type of serious or staring look, but you would go back to the way you were after you stopped the medication.

Dizziness or fainting Feeling dizzy when you stand up out of a chair or fainting can be a sign of low blood pressure and can be linked to Parkinson’s disease. What is normal? Everyone has had a time when they stood up and felt dizzy, but if it happens on a regular basis you should see your doctor.

Stooping or hunching over If you or your family or friends notice that you seem to be stooping, leaning or slouching when you stand, it could be a sign of Parkinson's disease. What is normal? If you have pain from an injury or if you are sick, it might cause you to stand crookedly. Also, a problem with your bones can make you hunch over.

So now you know what to look out for when detecting symptoms in the early stages of this disease. I also want to share some handy tips with you on how you can best deal with it when you or your loved one get the diagnose:

Be organized: 

Keep all of your loved one’s medical notes, insurance, records, appointments, telephone numbers of clinics and doctors, and medication details in a folder that can be easily accessed at any time.

Look after yourself:  In order to be able to look after your loved one, you need to be physically and emotionally well. Take time off, it’s important to unwind and de-stress. Spend some time doing something you enjoy and take your mind off things for a few hours.

Educate yourself about Parkinson’s disease: 

Keep up to date with all the latest news about the condition, read up about symptoms and talk to your loved one’s doctor about what to expect with the progression of the disease.

Expect changes in the relationship: 

Mood swings and depression are common in Parkinson’s disease and your loved one may even become resentful. It’s difficult to deal with these changes in the relationship, so open and honest communication is critical. You will both need time to adjust to your new roles in the relationship.

Observe symptoms and report any changes: 

As your loved one’s care giver, you will probably be the first person to notice any changes in behavior or worsening of symptoms. Report these to your loved one’s doctors as they occur so they can be addressed as soon as possible.

Encourage independence:  Try not to do too much for your loved one, they will want to hold onto their independence for as long as possible. Ask if they need help and respect their answer.

Here are some interesting facts on Parkinson’s disease:

  • More then 1 million people are living with Parkinson’s Disease in the US alone.

  • There are  50.000 to 60.000 new cases of people diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease each year.

  • Parkinson’s Disease affects men more often then women.

  • Scientists have been unable to determine the exact cause of this disease.

  • The average age of people diagnosed with Parkinson is 62. However there are many younger people under the age of 50 that are diagnosed every year with this disease.

There are many celebs around the world also affected by Parkinson’s disease such as:

  • Alan Alda, diagnosed in 2015

  • Muhammad Ali, diagnosed in 1984

  • George H.W. Bush, diagnosed in 2012

  • Neil Diamond, diagnosed in 2018

  • Michael. J. Fox, diagnosed in 1991 (he was 29 when he got his diagnoses)

  • Pope John Paul II, diagnosed in 1991

  • Robin Williams, diagnosed in 2014 (3 moths before he committed suicide)

Interesting to know:

Michael J. Fox launched his own foundation for people dealing with Parkinson’s disease, it’s called: The Michael J Fox foundation. Where they are dedicated to find a cure for Parkinson’s disease.

He wrote a best selling book on his battle with Parkinson’s disease, called:

“Always looking up. The adventures of an incurable optimist”

Here he writes about the personal philosophy that carried him through his darkest hours and speaks with others who have emerged from difficult periods with optimism to spare.

I hope that with this blog you got a little more insight on Parkinson’s disease.

Always remember do not lose hope and stay positive no matter what you are going through. Because whatever it is that you are battling with, know that you are not alone! There are always options and people ready to assist and help you.

Thank you for stopping by!

Nurse Kim

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