Another Year With Parkinson's Disease - 5 Resolutions to Make this Year

A time to reflect...

Happy New Year!. Ray Bradshaw / Moment / Getty Images

With a chronic illness, it is easy to become somewhat of a passive bystander to your disease. Especially with a progressive condition like Parkinson’s disease. Although the rate of each individual’s progression varies, it is a  chronic neurodegenerative condition and with time it does become more difficult to maintain our activities. And at times we accept this lower level of functioning as our new norm, an inevitable result of our illness and therefore feel that it is beyond our control.

And although acceptance is an important step in learning to live well with this disease or any other for that matter, complacency is not. 

(1)    First and foremost, define your quality of life goals. Don’t focus solely on your symptoms. Instead pay attention to how this disease is interfering with your life – your activities of daily living, your relationships, your occupational responsibilities, your social activities and so forth. Until a cure is found, this is what is most important – quality of life. Resolve to make a list of the most important quality of life goals you have and how your disease is interfering with them. Then be sure to communicate your concerns to your physician and other members of your medical care team.

(2)     Exercise. I can’t emphasize this intervention enough. If you only keep one resolution, this is the one to incorporate into your life. Exercise is beneficial for everyone in terms of lung and heart health but has particular benefits for those with Parkinson’s.

It can improve balance, mobility and flexibility. It can help with mood changes, increase energy and may even slow cognitive decline or the disease itself. The studies are still pending regarding exercises’s ability to act as a disease modifying intervention, but decades of experience have shown its value in maintaining function.

So resolve  to start moving. What you do will depend on your abilities, your interests and under the guidance of your health professional. The most important thing is to find what brings you joy and will encourage you to move everyday.

(3)    Reach out to others in the Parkinson’s community. There is something very special that occurs when you connect with someone who shares a similar life experience. It’s liberating to have someone understand what you are feeling, physically or emotionally without any need for long explanations- the type of understanding that can only be born from experience. If you are ready for it, resolve to join an in person or online Parkinson’s group and let their support and friendship help you navigate the year ahead.

(4)    Consider participating in a clinical trial. Fact is fact. Without our participation there can be no better treatments or a cure. The development of a new drug as it goes from the idea stage to the pharmacy shelf is a long and expensive journey which is made worse by the difficulties researchers have in recruiting clinical trial participants. The majority of clinical trials are delayed due to recruitment difficulties and that is an area where we can effect change.

So resolve to ask about clinical trials at your next medical appointment or register online with Fox Trial Finder.

(5)    Find your own way of contributing. We may be united by the common bond of Parkinson’s disease but we are certainly all individuals with our own strengths and interests. Being involved in the Parkinson’s community is empowering and there are a variety of ways to contribute. Perhaps fundraising for a specific organization or participating in others’ events. Maybe supporting someone else with Parkinson’s or advocating on behalf of the PD community is important to you. Start a blog to share your experiences and hopefully raise awareness.

Participate in a clinical study or encourage others to do so. Regardless of the path you take, resolve to get involved with your local or global Parkinson’s community – making a difference is an empowering experience.

New Year’s is a time for new beginnings, a time to move past the mistakes of the year coming to an end and celebrate the  victories you experienced. We may not feel like it’s easy to win when you are afflicted with a progressive disease like Parkinson’s but it’s important to face the challenges this illness brings with a sense of determination and resolution – a resolve to continue to move forward and to optimize your quality of life. 

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