Parkinson’s tremors have made handwriting impossible for my dad

While the loss was tough to swallow, it was an opportunity to adopt new tools

Mary Beth Skylis avatar

by Mary Beth Skylis |

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 “Let’s play a game,” my sister, Anne Marie, suggested one balmy summer evening. Our entire family had congregated in Northern Michigan for a weeklong vacation, and we were looking to create some fun.

Anne Marie explained the rules of the game: One player would read a question out loud to the others, such as “What is Betty Crocker known for?” The other players would then have to write down an answer that was either correct or made up, such as suggesting that Betty Crocker was known for building the first life-sized gingerbread house. The player who read the question would get to pick their favorite response and give a point to the person who wrote it.

Our family has always loved playing this game because everyone is pretty creative with their responses. While we often know the answers to the questions, many of us find that it’s more entertaining to create a response for comedic effect.

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Loss and adaptation

During one round, my brother — who is notorious for being competitive and highly engaged in games — was asking the question. Everyone placed their answers in a pile, but my brother grew frustrated because one of the answers wasn’t legible. That prompted a sad look from my dad. Although my brother didn’t realize that it was Dad’s answer he couldn’t read, the rest of us did. We knew that Dad’s handwriting had changed since his diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease several years ago. My heart sank.

Dad was already a little hesitant to participate in family games, and I wondered if this incident would prompt him to withdraw entirely. It’s not like he intended for his handwriting to be difficult to read. But worsening tremors — a symptom of Parkinson’s — made it hard for him to shape letters as he used to do.

The game resumed, but Dad stepped away. I hated to see a look of shame on his face, and it made me angry. But I used that anger as motivation to find solutions. Over the next few weeks, I started making suggestions to Dad.

“Have you ever used the talk-to-text function on your phone?” I asked him one day. He hadn’t. So I showed him how to operate it, and he quickly adapted and made it a regular part of his life.

Not long after that, I purchased Dad’s first Alexa device, which he used to Google questions and listen to the news. While I know that losing control of his handwriting was another loss that Parkinson’s forced my dad to experience, we used it as a reason to adapt. And I think that’s one of the rules for success while living with Parkinson’s disease.

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.


Beth T Browne avatar

Beth T Browne

Has you doctor tried Botox? It has helped some.
A friend slowed his down by opening and closing his hands throughout the day.

Gerald McCarty avatar

Gerald McCarty

I had similar issues with my dominant left hand. I switched to writing right handed and after a few months I could write almost as well as I had before Parkinson’s.

Brian Maloney avatar

Brian Maloney

At 72, I have had many of the symptoms of PD for perhaps 5 years, starting with tremors. I was told by a doctor that my tremors were essential tremors and that even if it were PD, "not much can be done for it." Now with a diagnosis of PD I am wondering if I should continue my retirement business as "Grandpop Bubbles," bringing my "Free Bubble Festivals" to cities and towns, schools, etc. I venture out alone many mornings in my fully equipped van. Thosuands of families come out to make the biggest bubbles of their lives, free. While I make giant bubbles that kids love to pop.

I am wondering what information would encourage me to continue and what signals would suggest that I cease.


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