How Parkinson’s Affects Family Relationships

Lori DePorter avatar

by Lori DePorter |

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“Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.” – Michael J. Fox 

“Love the people that have been given to you. … Love your family.” – Fr. Mike Schmitz

There you have it. One quote from a celebrity and one from a Catholic priest. Both are short and sweet, yet both can guide those of us with Parkinson’s as we navigate our journey.

Receiving a Parkinson’s diagnosis is devastating. However, what about our family — our immediate family, our extended family, or those close to us who have become family? How does our diagnosis impact them?

Our family supports us as we wrap our heads around the words, “You have Parkinson’s.” However, at the same time, they’re likely considering how this diagnosis will impact their lives, too. Will they become caregivers? This can be a double whammy, especially if we have been diagnosed with young-onset Parkinson’s.

Together, we embark on a family journey. Both patient and caregiver may take turns as the leader and the follower, picking each other up, and never losing sight of the other. And most importantly, we never let each other go. 

Each year, approximately 10-20% of the 60,000 patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s in the U.S. are under the age of 50. The journey with young-onset Parkinson’s is long, and life presents different challenges. It can be a struggle to manage work, family, and friends. At some point, it is almost inevitable that our world will be knocked off its axis. It shifts, and we become the caregiver.

Although we may expect the pieces to crumble, they do not; we are still standing. Others are with us, but we have become the rock, the cornerstone, the leader. Our foundation has been shaken, but we are not broken. In fact, we are strong.

What makes us strong?

Where does this strength come from? Is it God, Mother Nature, medications, meditation, or mindfulness? The answers are different for each of us because our journeys are different.

For me, my strong support system includes my family, friends, and faith. Each has played a role in who I have become over the last six years. I have gained a unique perspective that allows me to understand the uncertainty and fear my loved ones are facing. 

In a recent conversation with my mom, the importance of my faith became clear to me. She told me that it’s easy to know that God is with you when life is moving along smoothly. But it’s harder to know that he is there when life is difficult. My faith has allowed me to maintain hope and to trust that I am never alone as I live with Parkinson’s. 

So, when you find yourself taking the lead on the road less traveled, remember that you are not alone. You are with family, and family is everything.


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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.


Mr. Bradley avatar

Mr. Bradley

Excellent point. The importance of faith cannot be overestimated in dealing with PD.
It goes back to the most basic question----what does God want from us? God made us to know Him, to love Him and to serve Him in this life and to be happy with Him forever in Heaven.
Which means we were not made in order to just make money or have fun and goof off. We were given life to know God and to know what He wants us to do.
Nothing happens to us in this life that is not ultimately for our own good, as God is always trying to draw us closer to Him. Sometimes that involves pain and suffering from illness.
Rather than ask "why me?", I say "oh, this is the road that is going to get me closer to God." It's the road less traveled, for sure, but I know I'm right where God wants me. May we all be good witnesses on our journey.

Lori DePorter avatar

Lori DePorter

Thank you for sharing. Taking a leap of faith is an important part of the journey...over and over...


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