Living with Parkinson's Disease (PD)
With the right treatments and by making some adjustments to daily life, people with Parkinson's disease (PD) can lead effective and fulfilled lives.
Staying active is important for the body to cope with PD in the best way. In addition to its physical benefits, exercise has also been shown to have a positive influence on mood, improving both the motor and non-motor symptoms of PD. Walking is a great way to keep the body in good shape and to keep the mind active. Physiotherapists are experts in developing a personalised exercise plan that can also help with movement and ease stiffness.
It is important to keep up with the activities that are enjoyable and to maintain social engagements despite your PD. The symptoms of Parkinson’s may prevent you from taking up some of your former hobbies but you should, as much as possible, maintain the activities you enjoy. For example, people with PD who like to travel can continue to enjoy their trips while making some adjustments to daily life including taking regular breaks, and ensuring that their Parkinson’s medications are available at all times, and in particular at the destination regardless of any luggage delay.
Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet is important for people with Parkinson’s. A high-fibre diet and drinking lots of water can help reduce the constipation that is often associated with PD. Additionally, if you have PD and are taking any levodopa therapies, try not to take your pills at the same time as eating foods containing meat, fish, eggs or cheese. Due to high protein content, the intake of those food items needs to be carefully timed during the day, but not totally avoided. It may be useful to see a dietician to get expert advice on your diet. This is particularly important if you have concerns about losing weight.
Although some daily chores may become more difficult, it is important to maintain a positive attitude in order to find your own way to tackle the challenges presented by PD. By adjusting daily routines, people with PD can accommodate Parkinson’s symptoms such as slowness. For example, allowing more time to dress, and sitting down with arms supported by arm rests of a chair may help with unbuttoning clothing which can become difficult due to stiffness and tremor. Choosing clothes that are easier to put on can also help. A visit to an occupational therapist may also provide valuable tips for maintaining your lifestyle according to your personal needs and your unique Parkinson’s symptoms.
Some PD symptoms such as slowness and stiffness may, over time, affect your ease of driving. Tremor does not usually affect the ability to drive and may actually improve once you take the wheel. As PD progresses, fluctuating symptoms and involuntary movements may impair your driving. You should discuss this with your doctor.
Sleep problems are quite common in people with PD and are part of the non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s. These may be due to stiffness, discomfort, increased need to go to the toilet or waking up at night feeling depressed. In addition, some drugs affect the ability to sleep. It is a good idea to discuss this with your doctor, who will be able to advise you on simple solutions that may help. For example, if you are experiencing difficulties turning over in bed, using sheets with less friction (silk or satin) may help. Additionally, drinking coffee, tea or alcohol should be limited in the evening. Reading in bed or going to bed when you are sleepy may help with the onset of sleep.
A diagnosis of PD won’t necessarily prevent you from working. However, some adjustments may need to be made depending on your Parkinson’s symptoms. For example, creating a work schedule that allows more demanding tasks to be performed in periods of good energy and mobility can help you cope with such tasks. Other tips include using a computer instead of writing by hand, to help with writing difficulties due to hand tremors. In addition, allowing more time for each task, taking regular breaks and seeking the advice of occupational therapists can also help maintain an effective working life despite your PD. Most of all, you should listen to your own body.
Support from friends and family
Friends and family form an important support network for anyone living with PD. They may not always be aware of the more subtle signs of Parkinson’s so open dialogue may help them understand how you are feeling. Remember that your loved ones will also require some time for themselves in order to recharge batteries and be able to keep supporting you.