Parkinson's Disease: A Family Affair

Can we talk? Today, this soon to be 54-year-old-gray-hair-PD-bloggin'-mama-of-four (breath)... is on a mission. I have a message to share, a story to tell. Why? Because the love of my life has Parkinson's disease (PD).

That's really not such a big deal, right? After all, more than 10 million people worldwide live with Parkinson's disease. That's so many people! Look at it this way. The entire city of Seoul, South Korea, does not even have that many people. Even New York City could add almost another 2 million to its 8,398,748 people to have as many as the PD population worldwide. So, what's the point?

I'll tell you. According to the statistics, "incidence of Parkinson’s disease increases with age, but an estimated 4% of people with PD are diagnosed before age 50." 4%! That's like 400,000 people, right? And one of those happens to be the love of my life, "Dannypoo"!

PD UNDERrepresentation

Here is what has my curls in a crawl, my dander in a dust storm, my thoughts on a roll. Each evening on network television, we see an ad for Parkinson's disease medications on our screen. It's terrifying! As well it should be because PD is pretty much that, but the commercials always seem to feature the elderly. These nightly ads tend to show a couple well into their golden years struggling with movement, looking lost, and appearing hopeless. The scariest ad deals with hallucinations. Shame on this pharmaceutical company for misrepresenting our PD population. Yes, these are symptoms of Parkinson's disease, and more. However, a large part of the PD population is under-represented.

Parkinson's affects the whole family

Let's consider those diagnosed under or at 50 years old. What does that look like? Well, it certainly would look like the same symptoms; however, the cast changes. Instead, we would likely see a parent struggling to support their family, a house full of children growing up with a parent whose health is deteriorating, a care partner balancing everyone's needs while attempting to provide a new "normal" in the house.

It pretty much looks like this:

five children posed in height order from tallest to shortest.

Parkinson's disease looks like this image of my family. It arrived at our house when the boys were just three and four years old, actually younger than pictured here.

What if the other 7.69 billion people in the world saw this picture? I wonder, what would change? Imagine seeing Parkinson's disease through the eyes of a child, maybe just eight years old, watching their parent struggle to walk across the room, helping them cut their dinner, carrying a glass of water so it doesn't spill... looking for their presence at ball game, school concert, or their college tour and wondering, "Will he be able to walk me down the aisle too?"

I know, understand, and accept what is coming down the PD road for us. It's scary, even like those pharmaceutical ads. Yet, when I see how Parkinson's is viewed on my screens and compare to our reality for our children and others growing up with any chronic illness, I wonder what would happen or would anything change if we viewed PD from a child's perspective?

It's worth a try, right?

Are YOU a PD care partner? Want to join this PD family affair with me? Show me your family picture! From kids young and old, grandchildren, and pets too, all those around us are affected by this stupid disease. This is our family, and we have Parkinson's.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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