In Harmony: Navigating Relationships and Parkinson’s

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by Jo Gambosi |

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The COVID-19 pandemic has led many of us to realize how much relationships, interactions with others, and social support mean to us. We as humans were created to be social.

For people with Parkinson’s disease (PD) and other chronic illnesses, the isolation, anxiety, and depression may feel even greater.

During lockdown, my sister, Bev, who has stage 3 PD, said she basically felt like a prisoner in her own home. Her daughter and son were so concerned about her being exposed to the virus that they wouldn’t let her leave the house.

Bev loves to shop. I tell her it’s her hobby. So, I could tell from talking with her over the phone that she was feeling a bit down. Sure, FaceTime allows her to see her grandchildren and great-grandchildren, but nothing can replace human touch and hugs.

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Regardless of the pandemic, PD can affect relationships.

The nonprofit Parkinson’s Victoria notes that, “Whether you have Parkinson’s or care for someone with the condition, Parkinson’s may affect your relationships. … Relationships between partners or family members, including children and grandchildren, are those most likely to be affected.”

Not everyone experiences changes in their relationships because of a PD diagnosis. Some individuals, depending on family and social dynamics, find that their relationships with family and friends become stronger. For others, the challenges of coping with PD, whether as a caregiver or patient, may erode relationships. Sexual relationships may also be affected by PD symptoms, changes in body image, or side effects of medications.

As PD progresses and a person experiences physical or mental changes, relationships may be tested. The Parkinson’s Foundation has an excellent article about dealing with possible effects of PD on relationships.

Bev had only a slight head tremor and weakness initially, but now she has balance and short-term memory issues. The cognitive changes are the most challenging for her daughter, who is her primary caregiver. It is often the source of angry conversations.

Bev said, “I know that I am forgetful and have poor memory with names and numbers, and it is difficult to remember and focus on things. This is not only frustrating for me but for my family.”

I’ve talked with Bev’s daughter about changes in her mom, and how it must be difficult to be patient. I encouraged her to take care of herself as well. It’s difficult when the roles of mom and daughter are reversed because of the disease.

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Why Both Parkinson’s Patients and Caregivers May Grow Impatient

Fortunately, Bev has a strong faith, which she said helps her deal with her PD as well as difficulties in her relationship with her daughter.

Parkinson’s News Today columnist Lori DePorter conveyed beautifully how important her relationships and faith have been in managing her PD. She wrote, “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.”

Keep pressing on to keep relationships in harmony. Although changes may occur, remember:

“There is no exercise better for the heart than reaching down and lifting people up.” — John Holmes

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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.

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