What I Learned While Visiting My Sister, Who Has Parkinson’s Disease
My sister, Bev, has stage 3 Parkinson’s disease (PD), which causes her to experience balance and short-term memory issues, along with hand tremors. While visiting her in Ohio last month, I noticed Bev’s PD had progressed. She was having more difficulty with balance, memory, and chronic fatigue, and I definitely noticed her decreasing cognitive function.
But another significant change I observed in Bev, 84, was her increased irritability with me and others. She also seemed to be anxious about almost everything.
After much thought and prayer, I decided to ask Bev if we could have an honest and open discussion about how she was feeling in regards to both PD and her life in general. I tried to communicate compassionately that I had noticed some changes in her mood.
Mood changes and increased anxiety are not uncommon in PD and can result from either psychological or biological factors. According to Rachel Dolhun, MD, the vice president of medical communications at the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, “Parkinson’s decreases brain chemicals that impact mood, which means anxiety and depression are rooted in a biological basis.”
During my discussion with Bev, I focused on her irritability, anxiety, and balance issues.
Bev said, “I know that people care about me and are just trying to help when they make suggestions, but I am tired of hearing them repeatedly. I sometimes just want to be left alone. I can still make my own decisions.” My sister has always had a stubborn streak!
I told Bev that I couldn’t fully understand her frustration toward PD and her cognitive changes, but that I respected and loved her. I promised to suggest to other family members and friends that we allow her to be as independent as possible, let her make her own decisions when reasonable, and avoid repeating our recommendations to her. Lesson one noted!
While I was in town, Bev was surrounded by far more activity and people than she’s used to. I’d thought getting her out of the house to go to a restaurant for lunch or visit a local friend might help lighten her mood, but it was actually overwhelming for her. A second lesson learned.
I also asked Bev if I could contact her neurologist about possibly trying a different medication for her balance issues and tremors. She agreed, and her doctor prescribed something else: carbidopa/levodopa, the generic for Sinemet.
After I returned home to Arizona, I called and asked how she was doing with the different PD medication. Bev said, “At first it made me really sleepy, but now I think it’s helping my tremors and balance.”
Thanks, sis, for sharing your insight and helping me better understand your experience.
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.