What's Next After Parkinson's Diagnosis?

5 Steps to Being Normalizing Parkinson's in Your Life

older man getting instruction at tai chi class
Dougal Waters/DigitalVision/Getty Images

Your doctor has just informed you that you have Parkinson’s disease. He or she has outlined what to expect in the coming years and has ideally taken the time to answer as many questions as you have.

At this stage, it's pretty normal to feel shell-shocked and less able to make heads-or-tails about what any of this really means. The first step is to take a long, deep breath and allow yourself the time to fully process the news.

It may take a few days; it may take longer.

Once the earth has begun to settle beneath your feet, there are five things you can to gain a better perspective of the route forward.

5 Steps to Normalizing Parkinson's in Your Life

The first things social workers often forget is that acceptance of a disease starts with the acceptance of the diagnosis. If you have any lingering about your doubts about your diagnosis, you will be less invested in making the commitment to change needed to manage your disease.

Don't be shy about getting a second opinion, particularly when it's something as life-changing as Parkinson's disease. It's not that you distrust your doctor; it's more about self-determination and getting full information to make an informed choice.

If your diagnosis is confirmed and you accept it, you can begin the process of normalizing Parkinson's into your life by taking the five following steps:

  1. Start by developing a strong relationship with your doctor. You're going to be together for a long time, and it's important that you have open and honest communication with full information from both side. You need to operate as more than just doctor and patient; you need to become partners. Don't hesitate to meet several doctors until you find the right one.
  1. Know your drugs and how to take them. Depending on when they're prescribed, it's important that know you their names ("the white pill" is not enough), how to take them, what side effects may occur, and what drugs interactions to avoid. The aim is to become an expert in your health, not a bystander.
  2. Set up an exercise program as a priority. The evidence is strong that exercise translates to better motor function compared to people with Parkinson's who remain sedentary. If you are not in the best of health, get your doctor to perform an exercise tolerance test. You can then meet with a fitness expert to create a program that you can expand upon as you get fitter. The rule is simple: keep your body moving.
  3. Focus on good nutrition. While no single food can treat Parkinson's or its symptoms, a well-balanced diet can enhance your sense of well-being while avoiding any medical complications (cardiovascular, gastrointestinal) that can exacerbate your condition. Having Parkinson's doesn't give you pass on making good choices when it comes to your overall health. Eat right, lower your alcohol intake, and avoid cigarettes.
  4. Find support. Turn to friends and family who you know will be there if you need them. Set yourself up with a support group composed of like-minded individuals who are there to support each other. Be selective. Don't settle for groups or friends who don't provide you the positive reinforcement you need.

    Source:

    National Parkinson's Foundation. "Parkinson's Disease: What You and Your Family Should Know." Hagerstown, Maryland; updated 2013.

    Continue Reading