Losing Mobility and Independence

Last updated: July 2021

It’s 7 AM, I’m getting ready to make my coffee when I see my dad struggling to transport his own cup to the kitchen. He balances his weight between his wriggling legs, and leans on the counter as if he doesn’t entirely trust his body. He scoots across the kitchen, a few feet at a time. But the process is slow and uncomfortable.

Staying independent

These days, he’s still independent and capable of achieving nearly anything he puts his mind to. But I don’t want to see him struggle if he doesn’t have to. For a split second, I wonder if it’ll serve him better to help transport his coffee to the table, or to let him adapt to his changing body. I don’t know.

I know that he hasn’t taken Sinemet yet because he likes to wait until after he’s eaten to take his first dose. And this is him in his roughest form – unmedicated and completely at Parkinson’s disposal.

But I still feel an ache in my chest to see him fighting his disease. Tasks that used to be second nature begin to grow in difficulty. And I don’t want to see him lose his abilities.

Driving to the store

Later in the day, Dad tells me he wants to go to the grocery store and that I’m coming with him. I offer to drive. He turns me down. The grocery store isn’t a terribly lengthy drive. Yet, I resist the urge to tell him that it’s time for him to take the passengers seat.

I decide that our battle isn’t going to be today, and I hope that he’ll be confident and safe behind the wheel. I’ll be with him if he changes his mind. The truth is that I don’t want to take any more of my dad’s independence than I need to.

If he’s still capable of safely driving and handling his food and beverages, I hope that he’ll try. Trying seems to be a big part of Parkinson’s.

We have to try to adjust to the changing tides, moving furniture to clear the way for Dad. Maybe the kind of food that we cook could be easier to consume and less likely to cause choking. But whenever possible, I don’t want to step in.

Do I offer to help?

The trouble is that I know he hates to ask for help. I wonder if asking for assistance makes the task at hand even more humiliating? Does my dad harbor pain in his heart when he has to admit that he’s losing his ability to function independently?

When he’s frozen to the ground, I resist the urge to look in his direction because I don’t want him to feel unnatural. I know it’s already a struggle to maintain a semblance of normalcy.

Do I stand up to offer my shoulder while he travels to his chair? Or do I allow himself to build the mental and physical stamina that’ll allow him to do it on his own? This is one of the most difficult balances I’ve yet had to face.

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