This week (20 – 26 April 2015) is Parkinson’s Awareness Week, where the amazing charity Parkinson’s UK work extra hard to bring the relatively unknown condition to the front of the public perception. Their aim is to raise money and, most importantly, try to educate everyone about what Parkinson’s is, and how you can help someone suffering from it. Parkinson’s is a condition very close to my heart so I thought I’d try and help raise some awareness through my little corner of the Internet too and I’m also really excited to be holding a charity bake sale at work this week as well. The theme of this year’s Parkinson’s Awareness Week is “Up Your Friendly” so read on to find out how the smallest, kind thing can make the biggest difference to someone with Parkinson’s (and indeed anyone!)
As I wrote in last year’s post about Parkinson’s Awareness Week, Parkinson’s is a condition which occurs when nerve cells in the brain die. These nerve cells are needed to create the chemical dopamine. Dopamine sends signals from the brain around the body allowing you to speak and move the way you want to. Without dopamine you lose control of simple speech and movement, which can result in the hand tremors most commonly associated with Parkinson’s.
However, the symptoms of Parkinson’s are usually far more extensive than a tremor in the hand. Often those with Parkinson’s find it hard to swallow and speak, and also find that their bodies completely seize up at times, leaving them unable to move at all. There are also many other physical and mental symptoms which can cause distress and frustration for sufferers. I mean, imagine how you’d feel if you couldn’t do the simplest things you’ve spent the majority of your life completely able to do?
♥ Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological condition for which there is currently no cure.
♥ It is the second most common neurodegenerative disease in the UK, after dementia.
♥ People with Parkinson’s don’t have enough of the chemical dopamine, because for some reason specific nerve cells in their brain have died. It is not yet known why this happens.
♥ Some of the main symptoms of Parkinson’s are tremor, muscle stiffness, tiredness, pain and depression. Symptoms vary greatly from person to person.
♥ Parkinson’s can make everyday situations – such as getting dressed, talking, writing or using a computer – very difficult and frustrating.
♥ Parkinson’s is a fluctuating condition which can change from day to day and even hour to hour.
♥ Up to 80% of Parkinson’s sufferers will go on to develop Parkinson’s Dementia.
♥ Parkinson’s Dementia causes hallucinations, memory loss and confusion, gradually robbing people of their independence, relationships and their dignity.
♥ 7.45 million people worldwide are estimated to have Parkinson’s.
♥ 127,000 people in the UK have Parkinson’s.
♥ 1 in 500 people in the UK will develop Parkinson’s.
♥ 1 person every hour in the UK is diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
Parkinson’s UK are encouraging everyone to #UpTheirFriendly and pledge to do just one small thing a day which could make a huge difference to another person, whether they have Parkinson’s or not.
Such a small thing, but we all know how nice it is when someone makes you a drink. Parkinson’s can make muscles shake uncontrollably, making it impossible to do such an everyday thing.
Parkinson’s can also make muscles stiffen up painfully, but by letting someone go ahead of you, say at the supermarket, it gives them more time and space to complete their chores without feeling like a burden or under pressure.
I pride myself on always holding the door for people as it’s generally just good manners! However holding the door open can also be a relief for people with Parkinson’s who often suffer tiredness and loss of strength.
One of the trickiest things to deal with with Parkinson’s is that symptoms can change rapidly, from day to day and even hour to hour. By offering to help out a friend or neighbour can be a really big help, especially on a bad day.
Parkinson’s can make mobility very difficult, meaning even walking is a struggle, and often sufferers can only take small, shuffled steps. By stopping and giving someone time to make their way without feeling hurried or harassed can be a great help.
P.S – I definitely don’t claim to know everything about Parkinson’s or what those with Parkinson’s go through. I am purely drawing from mine and my family’s knowledge and experience of this condition, and the help that Parkinson’s UK have given us.
I live in Brixton in London. I eat out far too much, am always planning my next trip and have a borderline unhealthy obsession with Harry Potter.