Raising awareness of Parkinson’s

09 April 2019

In her third blog for us, Beth Britton explores what living with Parkinson’s is like and how to find positivity after diagnosis.

With around 145,000 people in the UK diagnosed with Parkinson’s, and many of Promedica24’s clients living with Parkinson’s, Parkinson’s Awareness Month is an apt time to explore the condition, how it can affect a person, and how to find positive ways to cope.

What is Parkinson’s?

Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological condition that results from cells in a part of the brain called the substantia nigra no longer working properly and being lost over time. These cells produce a chemical called dopamine, which is used by the brain to send messages to control movements. As these cells die and dopamine levels decrease, so the symptoms of Parkinson’s gradually appear. These are most commonly stiffness, slowness and tremors, but there are many other symptoms a person developing Parkinson’s might experience, as described by the NHS.

Being diagnosed with Parkinson’s

When a person is diagnosed with Parkinson’s, they may be told which type of Parkinson’s they have – you can find out about the different types from Parkinson’s UK . Although there isn’t a cure for Parkinson’s at the moment, research is ongoing and there are treatments available to help a person live as well as possible with their Parkinson’s. Parkinson’s UK look at many of these including medications and non-drug therapies.

For anyone looking to make a positive impact following a diagnosis of Parkinson’s, the Parkinson’s Movement created by people with Parkinson’s for people with Parkinson’s, aims to inform and encourage people with the condition to get involved in their work which could be anything from clinical trials to TV appearances.

Living with Parkinson’s

Although the majority of people living with Parkinson’s start to notice symptoms when they are aged over 50, 1 in 20 people with the condition first experience symptoms when they are under 40. Some of these people have become pioneers in raising awareness, including the actor Michael J Fox, who was diagnosed when he was 29 years old and went on to establish the Michael J Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s research. Closer to home, Ewan Stutt founded Parkinsons. Me following his diagnosis aged 41, and a friend and colleague of mine, Matt Eagles – who I first met when he interviewed me for Havas Lynx ‘Caring for Carers’ series – was diagnosed aged 7 with Parkinson’s.

Finding positivity

Matt is a fantastic example of being positive despite his diagnosis. His interview with the BBC encapsulates Matt’s thoughts and feelings about Parkinson’s.

I spoke to Matt about his Parkinson’s while I was writing this blog, and I asked him for three messages he’d like everyone to know about living with Parkinson’s. Matt said:

  • Don’t compare your Parkinson’s with anyone else’s. This will enable you to be the best person you can possibly be.
  • Set yourself goals that are achievable for you and celebrate your wins.
  • Don’t be down on yourself. It’s not your fault and if people stare don’t worry, it’s an opportunity to educate them.

Matt inspires me in many ways, not least with his Parky Life project which is all about fighting Parkinson’s with positivity. Parky Life is described as being:

“Chock-full of hacks, perks, inspiring people and funny stories. Parkinson’s doesn’t give you loads to smile about. So Parkylife is here for whenever you need a lift, or a laugh, or a great big hearty cuddle.”

As we are urged to #UniteforParkinsons during Parkinson’s Awareness Month, Matt’s words say it all. For further inspiration, check out this film made two years ago by David Sangster, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s aged 29, in support of the #UniteforParkinsons campaign 

About the author:

Beth Britton is a leading campaigner, consultant, writer, blogger, and Skills for Care Endorsed Training Provider. More information on Beth’s website: https://www.bethbritton.com

To find out more about how Promedica24’s live-in care can help to support a person living with Parkinson’s and their family, please visit our main section on this website about Parkinson’s: promedica24.co.uk/types-of-care/condition-led-care/parkinsons-care, call 0800 086 8686 or email care@promedica24.co.uk

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