Parkinson’s Disease

Written by Chloe Hamilton of Warm Embrace Elder Care

After years of waiting rooms, tests, and false diagnoses, your doctor has given you the final verdict: you have Parkinson’s disease.  You’ve suspected it for a while.  It was pretty subtle at the beginning, but the fatigue and stiffness are becoming more pronounced.  Your signature no longer resembles the one on the back of your driver’s license, and people are always saying “pardon me?” since your voice has dropped.  So here you are, sitting on the table in the examining room, hearing the final diagnosis, “you have Parkinson’s Disease”.

You’re not sure how to feel.  Part of you is just relieved that you finally have an answer.  No more tests, no more uncertainty.  You know what it is, and now you can move forward.  The other part of you is completely crushed.  You had still been holding out hope that your illness was something curable, something that would be treated and go away.  Not a degenerative disease with symptoms that could be “managed” at best.

The real question burning on your mind is: “now what?”  Where do you go for more information?  What questions should you be asking? What happens next?  Instead, you’re quietly ushered out of the office.  Going home alone that day can feel quite alienating, because the more you think about it, the more you realize that you now have more questions than you did before seeing the doctor.

The important thing to know is that you are most certainly not alone. There are between 80,000 and 100,000 Canadians who have Parkinson’s disease.  One of the best places to get preliminary information is from the Parkinson’s Society of Canada.  You can browse their website at: or call them at 1-888-851-7376.  There are local support groups available in most communities where people with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) can come together and discuss issues and solutions.  The support groups will not only provide you with information and social support, but will also help you to figure out which questions you need to be asking your doctor to maximize the treatment you receive.

You will discover that the course of PD is unique to each individual person with PD.  You may experience different symptoms than someone else in your support group, and your symptoms will fluctuate over time.  As PD progresses, you may experience some of the following symptoms: tremors, rigidity, slowness, impaired balance, lack of facial expression, lowered voice, fatigue, stooped posture, constipation, and sleep disturbance.  There is currently no cure for PD, but there are medications and therapies which can alleviate symptoms.

Therapies which help to manage symptoms may include: physical therapy for mobility, flexibility, and balance; occupational therapy for daily activities of living; speech therapy for voice control; and exercise programs to help muscle and joint strength while also improving overall health.  Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is essential and is one of the most proactive options you have to help PD.  You may also choose to participate in a research study through the local Movement Disorders Clinic at the Wilfred Laurier University.

Maintaining your social connection is also a vital element of wellness.  You need support systems in place that will be able to accommodate you as your needs may change.  It is important to plan ahead of time how you will receive assistance, and to make your wishes known.  Remember, you are not alone, and there are others who can support you along your journey with PD, so be sure to tap into the local resources that are available to you and your family.

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