Asking for help is not a sign of weakness

With Parkinson's, we must find a balance between independence and assistance

Jamie Askari avatar

by Jamie Askari |

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“Until we can receive with an open heart, we are never really giving with an open heart. When we attach judgment to receiving help, we knowingly or unknowingly attach judgment to giving help.” — Brené Brown, “The Gifts of Imperfection”

All patients with Parkinson’s disease slowly but surely begin to require assistance with the tasks of daily living. As much as we beg and plead for this not to happen, it inevitably does.

Each person with Parkinson’s has a specific version of the disease that looks vastly different from patient to patient. Some experience rapidly progressing symptoms soon after their diagnosis, while it takes years for the condition to advance in others.

At some point, sooner or later, independence will begin to diminish. It may start as requiring assistance with dressing, bathing, or preparing meals, and evolve over time to include more complex needs. Again, this happens at different rates for everyone.

No matter how fast (or slow) Parkinson’s progresses, the loss of independence feels like a gut punch. While asking for help can feel demoralizing, so does struggling without help. It’s a double-edged sword.

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Finding a balance

As a caregiver for my husband, Arman, who was diagnosed in 2009 with early-onset Parkinson’s disease at age 38, finding a balance between helping him and allowing him some much-needed independence can feel like a juggling act. While it’s natural to want to step in and help, letting him try things independently before offering my assistance is essential. I often remind him to “let me know if you need my help,” hoping this will give him time to try things himself, knowing I’m here to assist if needed.

As an adult, it feels unnatural to depend on others for things that used to be effortless. Starting in childhood, we’re raised to become independent beings; often, we instinctively learn to rely on ourselves for everything.

For Arman, simple tasks like changing the TV channel with the remote have become daunting. At the end of the day, utilizing the fine motor skills required of him can be a challenge. Handing over the remote to me is a defeat he faces every night as we settle into our cozy den to binge-watch our shows. Control of the TV may not seem like a big deal to most, but it’s another reminder of how much Parkinson’s has slowly robbed from him.

While the slow and steady loss of self-reliance can be painful, it’s important to remember that most people in your circle are eager to assist. Surround yourself with a tribe of companionate friends, family, or even kind neighbors. Your relationships become stronger when you begin to accept help from those around you who care enough to offer.

Many of us believe that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Early in his diagnosis, my husband realized that not asking for help when it’s needed is the real definition of weakness.

Take the assistance offered, and look for meaningful ways to give back to your helpers. You may discover that you have much more to give than you thought.

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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