Is It Possible to Be Organized and Focused with Parkinson’s?

Sherri Woodbridge avatar

by Sherri Woodbridge |

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Sherri Journeying Through

You ever try to go back to the way things used to be? Try to think the way you used to think when distractions didn’t compete for your attention? When you had some semblance of  “normality”? Things seemed somewhat organized or orderly and most things made sense.

I used to make lists and be organized. At least I think I was.

Now, I’m not so sure. How could I be so organized and sensible for so long, but then have it disappear?

I don’t make lists now, but every once in a while, I try to. One thing is certain: I sure don’t feel quite so organized as I once did. I should make lists because I forget everything, or so it seems. I don’t know. I can’t remember!

When I watched my grandkids every day, I didn’t feel like this, so scattered. I didn’t have to feel so scattered. I knew what I was going to do every day. That task kept me focused.

I would change a diaper. Love on my grandkids. Feed them breakfast. Play with them. Take pictures of them. Walk with them. Love on them some more and change another diaper.

Then I’d feed them lunch, play with them again, take more pictures, and make sure they knew they were loved.

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I would read to them, change another diaper, rock them as I sang over them before they would fall asleep for their nap, watch “Rapunzel” or “Swamp People” as they woke up. We’d go for an afternoon walk, picking out four M&M’s, one always red. Always more love. Always more kisses. The daily routine of having my grandkids helped me feel more in control while having Parkinson’s disease.

Watching my grandkids was “easy” most days. But on the days when the pain didn’t let up and I felt wobbly and shaky and things didn’t work the way I want them to, well, those days were so much harder.

Distractions are immeasurable around here.

OK, around me anyway. They seem to follow me everywhere. Like the other day, my husband was telling me about something … I don’t remember exactly what. But then I saw this bird and … what was I saying? Or wait. What was he saying?  

When I had my grandkids around, I didn’t have to think about organization. I just did it. It just happened. Remembering? I had someone around to help me remember. She followed me everywhere and she helped me remember everything, such as where I had left her little brother’s dirty diaper. Just kidding. I never did that, you know, forgot where I left a dirty diaper. I’ve never been that distracted, I don’t think. I don’t know. I can’t remember!

Anyone else ever feel that way? Anyone ever been that way? 



Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.


Daniel Novak avatar

Daniel Novak

I feel as if I have been that way, but I am not sure...

Let me look it up on my list[s]. Oops.

Sherri Woodbridge avatar

Sherri Woodbridge


Dan Freedman avatar

Dan Freedman

I'm not a doctor, but I have thought carefully about this issue, because I have also experienced it.

To me, the lack of organizational process speaks to a lack of motivation or engagement -- both of which seem like natural consequences of a dopamine deficit. Dopamine, along with other chemicals, is involved not only in motor control, but also in the brain's "anticipation of reward" emotions. In short, lack of dopamine diminishes the connection between work and pleasure/happiness/satisfaction. With a dopamine deficit, more of life's tasks seem like they are not worth the effort. Some may interpret this as apathy or depression, but I feel that "de-motivation" due to dopamine deficit is the direct culprit, and is not a secondary effect of apathy or depression.

For me, resolving my dopamine deficit (via dopaminergic medication) has helped a lot with upping my motivation. I notice that the dose required to restore my motivation is different from that needed to deal with my shaking, stiffness, constipation, and other mentation. So my advice would be to experiment with dosage, while keeping a "motivation journal".

Once again, I am not a doctor, so please treat this as merely a point of view. Perhaps someone with more of a research or clinical background could comment on this perspective.

Sherri Woodbridge avatar

Sherri Woodbridge

Great insight, Dan. Thanks so much for sharing!

Stacey avatar


Yes great insight.Makes sense!

Jerry Boster avatar

Jerry Boster

I find that being organized is a like a muscle that needs to be worked. The more you 'exercise' by organizing something (your day, a project, or even a meal), the better you are a maintaining organization.

I am a retired career Navy officer turned civil servant. I've used checklists my entire military & civilian career. They are a useful tool in helping me stay organized and function at a high level despite being diagnosed with Early Onset Parkinson's over 5 years ago.

Sherri Woodbridge avatar

Sherri Woodbridge

Jerry - that was an awesome comment! Thanks for the tip and thanks for sharing!

Alan Tobey avatar

Alan Tobey

In part this is a mindfulness measure. Even after 10 years with PD as of last week, I still have days when I can’t remember if I forgot to take my meds the last time — I’m mentally absent to the second degree! Just getting that down to one degree — realizing I did forget — seems like a minor triumph.

Sherri Woodbridge avatar

Sherri Woodbridge

Alan - a Major triumph in my book! Thanks for the comment!

Sarah Beer avatar

Sarah Beer

Sometimes I feel as though I have become a sloth! And yet, with my grandchildren, at my glorious Dance For Parkinson’s classes , or helping at the local Youth Theatre, my energy and motivation returns. But organising myself, even for these joyful experiences, is difficult, I seem leaden-footed and forgetful . Each successful foray, arriving on time, not shaking with anxiety is a triumph.

Sherri Woodbridge avatar

Sherri Woodbridge

Amen, Sarah!

Catherine ConnolllyHealy avatar

Catherine ConnolllyHealy

This very day, I have been wondering why I can't keep the house tidy anymore. I was diagnosed on 30 April last at 11.20am, aged 56

Sherri Woodbridge avatar

Sherri Woodbridge

Catherine - it’s called PD, huh? I’m now 59, misdiagnosed with Lupus in ‘92 and correctly diagnosed in 2004. I tend to now think being tidy is overrated. Only ‘cuz i struggle with it of course! :)

Sean L avatar

Sean L

At the risk of sounding like a commercial, I found that much of my diminished concentration was remedied when my doctor prescribed armodafinil. My insurance won’t cover it (because they only approve it for narcolepsy), and it’s crazy expensive in most pharmacies (so shopping around matters a lot), but it is the principal reason I’m still able to focus well enough to continue to work.

Your mileage, of course, may vary.

Sherri Woodbridge avatar

Sherri Woodbridge

Thanks, Sean, for the info! Good to know the options!

Brooke D avatar

Brooke D

I think it's like having ADHD at an advanced age. Very difficult to stay focused. I use an electronic calendar and check it all the time. It's been suggested that I don't make so many lists as they get confusing and I often forget to take them with me, but I still do them. I have a "system"...but I forget to use it - and I have many things to accomplish in a day..I work part-time and PD box and do PD yoga . I make lots of dates and times mistakes....
Arghhh it is so frustrating!

Bettye Short avatar

Bettye Short

I have a history of having ADHD, no longer on my medications. I didn't know it was associated with Parkinson's. MD took me off of it when my blood pressure went too high. I may ask for it again, since Parkinson's keeps my blood pressure low.

Katherine Rogers avatar

Katherine Rogers

I’m afraid that I have Parkinson’s. I have read about all the symptoms that I’ve been having. One I didn’t read about and wondered if it is a symptom of Parkinson’s is very dry mouth.


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