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Keeping Up Appearances

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Dressing well and keeping up appearances may sound frivolous, but when disabled or chronically ill, what might deem shallow and trivial; personal maintenance takes on a very important role. Looking good can help restore morale and dignity, causing a domino effect - also improving the emotional state and approach of immediately family and friends.

I have to admit, I am pretty hopeless when it comes to fashion, and badly in need of a 'make over', was fortunate to be given very good advice by a friend who's been in the fashion industry for over thirty years. An immediate suggestion was to cut my hair. I was not thrilled at the idea, but trusted her judgement. My hair was terribly long, but cutting just three inches off the length, a good cut gave it shape, and wearing it a little shorter, makes all the difference, immediately improving my appearance. Feeling confident in her expertise, I decided to follow her other recommendations.

I've never been good at buying clothes for myself, and often its hit or miss whether I've made a good choice. Knowing your body shape and what is age appropriate, comfortable yet stylish clothing that suits you, is essential, and what may be clear to others, has taken me many years to learn. Armed with this information, clothes shopping is made much easier, for I find, it exhausting, not to mention painful, endlessly trying on clothes in an attempt to find the right outfit.

Now a little wiser, and having learnt the 'rules', I don't waste time and precious energy, trying on clothes unless I'm pretty sure they'll suit me. My daughter and some dear girlfriends who have the patience and time, help me enormously, taking turns to push my wheel chair through shopping malls that are so large, I feel overwhelmed by the staggering choice of shops. It was an interesting exercise finding which shops thoughtfully cater to the disabled, with extra large changing rooms, some especially designed for wheelchairs, with handrails and a fixed seat at the same height as a standard wheelchair. Many of the smaller shops, simply short of floor space, justifiably could not allot a large enough area for a disabled friendly changing room, and there were some that appallingly didn't even have a chair or stool inside the cubicle.

Tracksuits are not flattering, and should be avoided like the plague; so I've been told! Shapeless elastic waistbands hide whatever figure or good attributes you may have, and can leave one resembling a member of the Michelin man's family (no disrespect meant to the beloved Michelin man). Understandably, it is the simplest choice for a chronic patient to habitually wear these comfortable, easy to pull on and off garments, especially when mobility is impaired. However, if a tracksuit is your only comfortable option of clothing, at the very least, make sure you purchase one of the better makes. It may prove a little more expensive, but it's worth it and today there are some very glamorous tracksuits available, in marvellous colours that are both stylish and comfortable.

Having a very pale complexion, I often resemble a ghost, and that's on a good day! When I'm having a bad day, I am so white, like a chameleon I blend in with the walls. I've never been one for wearing make-up, so had much to learn. Although it takes a great deal of time and effort to apply make-up due to lack of dexterity (another Parkinson's symptom), its no mean feat; but the results are astonishing. I am transformed from someone who would have made a great extra as a vampire for the 'Twilight' films, into a woman with life and colour in her face. If my hands are particularly unsteady and I'm staying at home, simply putting on a little lipstick can make a difference.

Pedicures and manicures for a someone with Parkinson's is particularly tricky and best done by a professional, so this expense might well be left for occasions when going to a special function. Jewellery and accessories such as scarfs can be added to make a dramatic effect, but I was advised to keep things simple, no frills, or bling.

A 'make over' can't cure me of Gaucher or Parkinson's disease, but at least I feel elegant, stylish and I love my new classic look. I'm still chronically ill, but I look fabulous!
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