Facing the Holiday Season With Parkinson’s Disease

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by Jo Gambosi |

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One of my favorite songs from the 1966 Broadway musical “Mame” is “We Need a Little Christmas.” The story’s main character, Mame, is an eccentric rich woman who suffers a large financial loss during the Great Depression. Even though it is not Christmas, Mame decides that she will celebrate it early and convince her household to join her. My sister Bev says Christmas is her favorite holiday, but getting through the holiday season with stage 3 Parkinson’s disease can be difficult for her.

Bev has problems with walking and balance, and has experienced falls because of these issues. She also experiences short-term memory issues, and she sometimes feels down during the holiday because she can’t do the things she used to do for Christmas.

“I sometimes feel more alone when I remember Christmases past,” she said.

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Bev is surrounded by family members who love her, but the holiday season can remind someone with Parkinson’s about things that they have lost to their disease, and it can bring on feelings of loneliness.

During a season associated with joy, happiness, and celebration, a person with Parkinson’s may feel different, disconnected, and socially isolated. Even if that’s not true, it’s their reality. Their symptoms can become more severe because of these feelings, and the depression and anxiety that accompany Parkinson’s can also worsen during the holiday season.

During a recent phone conversation with Bev about the holidays, I encouraged her to focus on what she still can do. “By doing what is possible, you’ll soon be doing what seems impossible!” I told her.

Some of the things I suggested included writing a note to a friend or neighbor who is also struggling with a chronic illness, or who has experienced a recent loss, or baking something and then inviting a friend over for holiday tea. Bev loves to bake.

I also encouraged her to put up small Christmas decorations around the house to help her feel less disconnected and more a part of the Christmas holiday.

Bev’s youngest son brought over a large Christmas tree and put it up for her in the living room, and her daughter put lights on the tree. Bev agreed to only put ornaments in areas that she could reach! Her grandson helped decorate the outside of Bev’s house. 

There has been so much loss because of the COVID-19 pandemic — husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, dear friends and even faithful furry companions — and I am so grateful that my sister, who was my guardian after our parents died, is still with us this Christmas season. Whether a loss is recent or happened many years ago, it is still felt, and the person’s presence is still missed.

Bev and I are both of the Christian faith, and we believe that there is still a reason to celebrate and be joyful, to be thankful and to be hopeful. For Bev and I, because of Bethlehem, there is a reason and a season for hope.

And in the words of Mame, “We need a little Christmas. Right this very minute. We need a little Christmas now!”


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.


Desmond Veale avatar

Desmond Veale

I too am a person of strong Christian faith full ministry for 40 years. I take comfort in being grateful for what I have go, and seek His strength and comfort. Re remain confident and He will make a way.


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