A Checklist for Supporting Someone with Parkinson’s
Last updated: May 2023
Lately, I have met people who know someone with Parkinson’s. However, the messages they have delivered to me are somewhat distressful, not hopeful:
"I have a friend with Parkinson’s, and they’re stuck at their home, just frozen."
"I know someone with Parkinson’s, and they just stay at home now."
"I have a good friend with Parkinson’s, and they’ve had it a long time, but he just doesn’t have a good attitude anymore, about anything."
How can we help people with Parkinson's?
These comments got me thinking about what we can do to help people with Parkinson’s. Each one was likely uniquely different from the other, and obviously, they were all under severe living conditions. Nonetheless, would a checklist help all of us to live better with Parkinson’s and stay renewed? Always try to embrace these words: "I choose to make the rest of my life the best of my life." Louise Hay
Parkinson's is a chronic, progressive disorder. With time, our symptoms may mature or get worse. It also means we may develop new symptoms. Thus, mentally and emotionally, it can be challenging to live with Parkinson’s.1
This is a wake-up call for everyone with Parkinson’s, or if you know somebody with Parkinson’s. It is time to re-engage them, boost their spirits, remind them that hope still exists. Remind yourself, or your friend with Parkinson’s that today renews your lease on the rest of your life, enjoy it. Today acknowledge your Parkinson’s. Give it a nudge, because you are ready for the battle and for life.
The list below is a simple reminder of what we can do to manage our Parkinson’s and to better our life outside the confines that Parkinson’s so desires of our bodies. Think about it this way: a sedentary person is what Parkinson’s gains strength from by their path of least resistance.
By contrast, the active person with Parkinson’s who brings hope, perseverance, and positivity provides the spark to hold Parkinson’s at bay. Focus on the words of Denis Waitley, "Don’t dwell on what went wrong. Instead, focus on what to do next. Spend your energies on moving forward toward finding the answer."
Tips for providing support
Hopefully, you can use this list to remind yourself of some common goals to counter your Parkinson’s. If you are a friend of someone living with Parkinson’s, here is a chance to help. If you can spare a few minutes every-now-and-then, use the checklist to visit your sedentary friend with Parkinson’s. Your goal is to help them re-activate and re-engage in their life.
Get outside and walk together
Drop by and say hello. Get a feel for their mood. Are they frozen-in-form or just slightly rigid? The goal is simple: go outside and walk to the mailbox and back. Tell them how important exercise is for Parkinson’s, no matter what stage of their disorder or their age.
Ask when they last saw their neurologist
Remind them how valuable it is to keep up with appointments. Although the progression of Parkinson’s may be slight or subtle, their healthcare provider is usually the constancy-of-care. A movement disorder physician can advise therapy and guide the treatment plan for the person with Parkinson’s.
Ask about their medication schedule
Do they have a regular medication schedule during the day and evening to take their PD-specific drug? Ensure they are taking their medication as directed by their doctor. For example, carbidopa/levodopa is best taken on an empty stomach.2
Ask them about their diet
Proper nutrition is needed fuel people with Parkinson's. While there is not a Parkinson’s-specific diet, eating whole foods or a plant-based diet is beneficial.2
Find out how well they are sleeping
It is vital to know if they are getting enough sleep every night. Why? Think of the brain like a sponge filling up with fluid all-day long. During sleep, we squeeze the excess liquid out and restore and refresh our mind. Sleep issues can be a symptom of Parkinson's, but they can also be caused by Parkinson's treatments.3
Encourage them to join a support group
Joining a Parkinson’s support group can lead to positive interactions with others impacted by the condition. Having a well-trained and best-intentioned group leader is be both reassuring and very supportive to all.
Learn who helps manage the condition
Find out if someone is helping manage aspects of their daily life. Alternatively, maybe their care partner is overburdened and in need of a break. Could you strategize with them to give the care partner time off, even for a few hours by you or someone else?
Plan for social interaction
Socializing and social networking is a part of the formula for improving your quality of life with Parkinson’s. If there are no social interactions, it would be most beneficial to make a plan to include getting the person with Parkinson’s out with others.4
Exercise is not only beneficial for Parkinson's symptoms, but additionally, it has a positive effect on quality of life. The ultimate goal is to help the person with Parkinson’s to begin exercising. However, they should first consult with their neurologist and follow-up with a physical therapist before starting to exercise.5
Remind them to remain hopeful
Help them to remain hopeful, persistent, and positive. I leave you with this quote from Mary Anne Radmacher:
"Speak quietly to yourself and promise there will be better days. Whisper gently to yourself and provide assurance that you really are extending your best effort. ... Recognize that on certain days the greatest grace is that the day is over and you get to close your eyes. Tomorrow comes more brightly..."
Do you experience issues with spatial awareness?