THE FACTS ABOUT PARKINSON’S DISEASE: UP YOUR FRIENDLY WITH PARKINSON'S UK
One person every hour is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
Like my Grandmother who was in her 70’s when diagnosed, most people get the disease aged over 50 however younger people can get it too. She is one of 127,000 people in the UK with Parkinson’s as it affects one person in 500.
Tragically, it is a progressive neurological condition, which means she is not going to get better. The disease will not kill her but it will mean that symptoms will only worsen over time.
Parkinson’s is caused when nerve cells inside the brain are killed causing a lack of the chemical, dopamine. Why these cells die is unclear but it can lead several symptoms which will vary from person to person. My Grandmother battles the following physical symptoms daily:
· Slowness of movement
· Rigidity or stiffness, especially after she had stopped for a period of time.
· Shuffling when she walks
· Freezing mid way through tasks which could take up to half an hour to overcome
· Problems sleeping, waking up in the middle of the night, wanting to get up to complete tasks she thought she had forgotten in the day or thinking someone was knocking at the door
· Speech and communication problems came later on as the muscles in her neck weakened making her voice softer and words more difficult to get out
· This also has lead to difficulty swallowing as she now can sadly no longer eat solids
Unlike most with Parkinson’s, she initially had no tremor, which we believe is partly why it took her so long to be diagnosed. Only later on, she acquired a twitch in her neck and slight shakes in her hands when she became more stressed.
She also faces mental symptoms, these include:
· Anxiety as she would constantly worry about tasks she had not done
· Frustration, predominantly caused through the physical symptoms
· Dementia, which came later on and has lead to short-term memory problems. She is not alone with this as up to 80 per cent of those with Parkinson’s develop Parkinson’s dementia
· Hallucination and delusions as she would see things which were not really there like holes in her clothes for example
Currently there are no cures. There are however treatments which can help to maintain quality of life. Drugs can help to restore the level of dopamine and physical therapies can help to manage Parkinson’s through the likes of physiotherapy, speech and language as well as occupational therapy.
My Grandmother gradually became less and less confident going out, aware things like paying at the supermarket checkout, took her longer much to the frustration of other shoppers. Parkinson’s UK empathises with this which is why their campaign this year centred around ‘up your friendly’. They are encouraging everyone to make small changes to their behaviour as it can make the biggest difference to someone living with Parkinson’s disease. This could include putting the kettle on, letting someone go first, holding the door open or like my Grandmother needed, just giving someone the extra time they need without becoming frustrated.
In our case, we are providing Parkinson’s friendly clothes that will be available later this year. Our beautiful clothes inspired by my Grandmother are specifically designed to make dressing easier considering things like stiffness, slowness of movement and shakes. All the things regular clothing fails to consider which as was the case with my Grandmother, can add to frustration and feelings of isolation.
For Parkinson UK’s free and confidential helpline for further help and advice call 0808 800 0303.