All chronic diseases have various elements, but one thing they all share in common is the emotional and mental health aspect which often gets overlooked, especially when physical symptoms of chronic disease can be so disturbing and distinctly visual.
Parkinson's has a vast array of symptoms, and are not hard to spot, such as my leg that shakes whilst I sit on a chair, as if mimicking the Highland Fling, despite not having a drop of Scottish blood in me. Shaky hands are a great inconvenience especially when eating, and a tip for any host, please never serve peas to a guest who has Parkinson's! Should you ever invite me for dinner, don't get out your best crystal glasses.
I've lost count of the many drinking glasses I've broken at home, so thanks to Parkinson's we've been left with a rather eclectic odd assortment. I categorically refuse to buy plastic beakers, for the mere thought is just too depressing, as if being thrust back into my childhood.
Much to the delight of our dog, I often drop food whilst eating, and she's taken it upon herself to act as a four legged vacuum cleaner. If I venture into the kitchen to try my shaky hands at cooking, our dog eagerly follows me, certain that her clearing up skills will be required. I'm sure you'll all agree, dropping a raw egg on the floor is one of the most difficult things to wipe up - so slimy! But a dog will more than willingly gobble it up, licking the floor clean, leaving not a trace; a far easier solution than paper towels!
Despite all these very blatant visual signs of Parkinson's, one's mental health is enormously important, and patient along with caregiver, should be aware of any mood changes or alterations in character. Anxiety can exacerbate Parkinson's at an alarming speed, causing physical distress. It's imperative for Parkinson's patients to remain calm, in a stress free environment, but let's face it, in today's world, this is not always feasible.
However it's essential to at least be aware of the situations or times that cause anxiety, and to alleviate these moments if possible. A very common symptom is depression which plays a major role in Parkinson's, and it should be taken very seriously, so watch out for signs of sadness and a general lack of interest. Don't be embarrassed to discuss matters of mental health with your family or doctor. There is nothing shameful, and with a wide range of medications on the market today, a suitable solution may be found to alleviate this dreadful symptom. Parkinson's has so many different unpleasant symptoms and speaking as a sufferer who experiences a full array personally; if you have the ability to remove even just one symptom, it can make a difference to your quality of life.
Parkinson's is a neurological disease, and therefore a cognitive test is necessary enabling a doctor to have a base line from which to work; repeating the test at a later date, can show indications if there are any changes. I am not alone in disliking this simple non-invasive test, for no one likes feeling embarrassed or belittled. A cognitive test is a good way of assessing one's mental capacity, so why do most patients hate this test so much? The answer is very simple; even in our modern day world, where we pride ourselves on being open-minded and educated, stigma and shame are sadly still associated with any mental health issues. I sincerely hope that with time eventually this ignorance will become a thing of the past.
It is crucial to show tolerance and patience to anyone who has Parkinson's. Occasionally I can feel that my attention span is short, and sometimes have difficulty remembering names or finding a word. Slowness in thinking and memory loss are common elements, so family and friends are becoming very forgiving of my mistakes. Parkinson's really puts me to the test and becoming forgetful tries the patience of all around me.
Adjusting to new circumstances, I frustratingly realise I cannot do what I used to. Somehow this doesn't always register, and still under the impression that I can whip up a three course meal in a flash, that Jamie Oliver would be proud of, in reality, it takes me all day just to make one simple dish, or bake a solitary cake. I'm not in denial; it's just extremely hard to fully comprehend and embrace the lack of ability in areas where I was once so competent. However, I can make an amazing cocktail, shaken not stirred of course!
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