parkinson's disease daily routine

Clinging to Creature Comforts

The blue light flickers in the living room, projecting pictures of real-time news events one evening. I know that it’s my dad who’s sitting in the chair in the darkness, rocking back and forth. But I can’t help but be reminded of my Grandma, who spent the latter portion of her life in a similar position. It was as if, after raising 10 kids, she was extremely tired. And she wanted to spend the rest of her days in a peaceful, low-stress environment.

When I catch glimpses of it, Dad’s figure is small and skinny. He wears a neck pillow for support since he sustained an injury years ago that haunts him today. And I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he reminds me of his mother, passing the days by in a quiet way.

Valuing his routine

At my brother’s wedding, Dad explained to me that ever since the pandemic began, he has really come to value routine. He gets up in the morning and does a series of stretches to wake his body up before heading to the kitchen table. Mom makes a small breakfast of his choice – usually it’s some combination of pierogies and maybe an egg. And he sits and reads his morning paper.

After he’s had his fill, he picks through e-mails, occasionally laughing at a message from someone he knows. He watches silly videos (they’re probably actually TikToks) and listens to the news. Late in the morning, he finally takes his first dose of levodopa before attending a Parkinson's fitness class.

Can trying new things help?

Maybe it’s that I’m cut from different cloth, but I sometimes struggle with routines like Dad’s. I used to joke with my friends, saying that it was time to move to another location as soon as I began recognizing the lanes in the grocery store. I feel that branching out of my comfort zone allows me to facilitate growth, and garnish myself with new perspectives. So, it’s become fairly natural for me to change my routines on a regular basis.

I recently started weight lifting with a personal trainer for the first time. And it takes a strong mind-body connection to ensure that I’m getting my form right and fending off injury. But the muscular tone and changes to my body are unlike any I’ve ever experienced before. Being a beginner as an adult can be really intimidating, but it seems to pay off, too.

So, when I see Dad’s face glimmering behind the television, sadness bubbles in my chest. I know that he still attends his own workouts, and goes to church every week. And he does try, when he sees the opportunity to do so. But as a progressive disease, Parkinson’s will come for him if he isn’t fighting back equally as hard as it's fighting him. So, I can't help but worry. Would breaking routine and trying new things help him?

The future

Who knows. Maybe one day, I’ll find the same comfort in routine as my dad. Maybe the lack of diversion from the day-to-day functions will become a solace when everything else seems chaotic and uncontrollable. Or maybe this is another part of Dad’s experience I’m incapable of understanding because I don’t have Parkinson’s disease.

I don’t think that there’s a right way to exist in the world, so maybe it’s not entirely fair for me to be critical of his choices. All I know is that I want him to try his hardest - whatever that means.

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