A senior woman holding a giant pencil like a staff in one arm, with the other hand fixed on her hip in a determined stance as she looks at a giant, long to-do list.

At 80 - Aging Joins Parkinson's

Last updated: August 2022

At a recent birthday party, a friend said, "Welcome to the octogenarian club." That caught my attention. When one joins this club, you can't fool yourself any longer that you are middle-aged. I certainly had been thinking about aging and Parkinson's as new health issues were starting their dirty work.

All my life, I have looked forward, but at age 80, it doesn't hurt to take a look back. What would I change? It turns out, not much. The report "You have Parkinson's" that I received 9 years ago couldn't be changed. So, how would I live my life?

Slowing the progression

I received the same information on the diagnosis that most of us get: "Here are your meds and come back in 3 months." In my case, the doc also said vigorous exercise might slow the progress.

What the neurologist didn't mention was luck. I believe it has been a combination of good fortune and vigorous exercise that slowed the progression. Until about a year ago, I could do almost anything I wanted. I watched friends at boxing go downhill and knew that was me someday. Someday is here. I do have Parkinson's, and I am 80 years old. My loss of balance has made it clear.

Don't let the couch win

Doctors, physical therapists, and trainers have encouraged me to maintain a training plan which includes cardio training, balance exercises, stretching, movement of all kinds, and boxing.

These activities led to a positive, optimistic group of new friends. I became active in the local Parkinson's community. It turns out that keeping Parkinson's off the couch leads to interesting and fun people with Parkinson's.

This support helps to maintain the attitude I need to deal with aging issues that are joining the Parkinson's entry to war on my body.

Piling on Parkinson's

My life is changing, and how do I deal with change? This query probably came from thinking about the nasty items on aging's sick list.

From the Parkinson's diagnosis in 2013 until today, I have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, sleep apnea, atrial fibrillation, insomnia, interstitial lung disease, glaucoma, 100 percent hearing loss in the right ear, melanoma, high blood pressure, dental issues, coronary artery disease, and various orthopedic issues related to exercising and aging. I hit the jackpot.

The years of dealing with Parkinson's served me well as the health issues came up. Recently, in a narrow spot of time, new health issues appeared: 100 percent loss of hearing in one ear, blood pressure spiking, atrial fibrillation, loss of balance, blood clot in the right leg, and to top it off, 8 nights in a physical therapy facility.

The stay was a learning experience for my family as it could offer a glimpse of my possible future. I haven't talked about stress because I don't know how it has affected me, but I am sure it has. All of this creates more problems for Parkinson's. However, I am getting my second wind and exercising.

What helps me

Compartmentalizing is very important for me. Each issue has its own compartment. Open, focus, and close one box at a time. I bring my full focus on one issue, 15 to 30 minutes per day - the minimum necessary. I also dedicate specific hours of the day for no thoughts, talk, or research.

Since January 1, 2022, I have seen 15 doctors' offices, had 9 visits to physical therapy, and had 8 nights in a physical therapy rehab facility.

Keeping track of these appointments can be a challenge. If appropriate, I email the doctor my list before the appointment. I get to know the staff and how to reach them - they can smooth out the rough spots. I asked for hand-written appointment cards if possible, make a medical appointment spreadsheet, and set a daily calendar.

That time with the doctor is valuable; remember, he is your partner. When it comes to meds, I check and double-check. I take a picture of each medication.

Making changes

Yes, I have had to make some changes in my life. Aging with Parkinson's means compromise. In other words, I cut back.

I will continue to work for a Parkinson's charity, stay active in the local Parkinson's community, and, if I can get this balance issue worked out, go back to my old exercise program. It is time to look forward again.

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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 ParkinsonsDisease.net 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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