I’m uncomfortable with questions about my husband’s Parkinson’s

Medical conversations with acquaintances seem inappropriate and awkward

Jamie Askari avatar

by Jamie Askari |

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I’m casually strolling through the grocery store, a simple pleasure we all took for granted before the COVID-19 lockdowns. How exciting it is to be able to be in a store again, instead of ordering groceries online and having them tossed on our doorstep. Although I love the convenience of delivery services, I prefer to select my items in person, as I always seem to end up with rotten fruit and expired yogurt otherwise.

I’ve lived in the same community for most of my life, though I did leave for four years of college and then for my husband’s medical residency. Living in the place I grew up and raising my kids here is usually comforting.

As I walk up and down the aisles of my local supermarket, I inevitably run into several people I know, from my past and present. While it’s nice to live in a close-knit community, it’s sometimes challenging. Everyone seems to know each other’s business.

Since Arman, my husband, was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease, I’ve become selective about my circle of friends — or lack thereof. I mainly look to my family and a few friends for support. Arman and I aren’t comfortable letting new people into our lives.

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A bit too personal for me

Almost every acquaintance I pass asks about Arman. While it’s polite to say hello and make small talk, it’s intrusive when I’m asked about him and his Parkinson’s disease in the middle of the grocery store. I realize most people have only good intentions and are genuinely concerned about him and his well-being, but frankly, I often feel the questions are a bit too personal and unnecessary for my comfort.

If I’d heard that your husband was suffering from a debilitating form of hemorrhoids, would you be comfortable if I asked about it? Would you want to explain his care details, treatments, and surgeries? I feel you probably wouldn’t wish to discuss the specifics of that medical situation, especially not in the middle of a grocery store. That’s precisely how I feel, too.

I’m still figuring out how to handle these unwanted questions. While it’s tempting to hibernate and have all of my food delivered, I don’t want that. I want to see old friends and acquaintances without worrying about what they may ask me. Just because Arman has Parkinson’s doesn’t mean our life revolves around it.

My standard reply has become “He’s good, thanks for asking.” Then I quickly pivot to a more appropriate topic, such as, “Hasn’t the weather been fantastic?” or “What are your plans for the holidays?” I think those questions are usually an obvious clue that I’m not interested in discussing my husband or his disease.

I’ll end this column by offering a sincere “thank you” to everyone who’s expressed concern or curiosity about Arman, at the grocery store or elsewhere. But let’s stick to chatting about important topics like the weather next time.

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.


William Baehr avatar

William Baehr

I just tell people he day drinks.

Jamie Askari avatar

Jamie Askari

That is a fantastic response!! I will try it out!! Thanks for reading.

Fraya Krukar avatar

Fraya Krukar

We live in a small, tourist community. My husband has Parkinson’s. We’ve had total strangers go out of their way to ask him about his condition. When I’m alone, often I’m approached, grocery store, cafe or wherever, and an acquaintance asks how he is doing. Frankly it doesn’t bother me. I choose to accept the comment, in most cases, as sincere caring. I feel I can control the conversation with my response. Our life does seem to resolve around Parkinson’s. You are fortunate if yours does not.

Jamie Askari avatar

Jamie Askari

Hi Fraya, sounds like a great place that you live with wonderful people. Thank you for reading!

Fred White avatar

Fred White

My wife would probably give some sort of a positive spin. Personally, I'm of two minds, if only one other person hears the report, then I am okay with it but if strangers might overhear, then I'd prefer a re-directing of the conversation. I think one useful ploy might be to say something like "We need more investment in R &D to develop a cure especially now that we're closer than ever before." Care to donate to MJFF?

Jamie Askari avatar

Jamie Askari

Hi Fred, I love your ideas!! The suggestion to donate to the MJFF is brilliant, I will try that one next time! Thanks for reading ;)


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