Living with Parkinson's Disease

Breathing exercises, yoga, dancing, and swimming are some of the activities that can contribute to the well-being of Parkinson's patients. Discover other recommendations.
Living with Parkinson's Disease

Written by Maite Córdova Vena, 15 August, 2021

Last update: 15 August, 2021

Apart from drug treatment, living with Parkinson’s disease can be successful, thanks to therapeutic measures and strategies to help patients. Although it’s true that we tend to associate the diagnosis with bed rest and an inactive life, this isn’t always the case.

In the case of Parkinson’s, the management options have advanced considerably. With this, it has been possible to improve the patients’ quality of life.

When applying the strategy, not only will the help of a multidisciplinary team (doctors, psychologists, physiotherapists) and the caregiver be necessary, but also the collaboration of the patient themself. The first step is to become well-informed about the disease. At the same time, good communication with the doctors will be essential.

Emotional health while living with Parkinson’s disease

Depression, anxiety, and apathy are problems that the vast majority of Parkinson’s disease patients need to manage in order to live a healthy life. Although the drugs prescribed by the treating physician (such as antidepressants) will play an important role, various supplements are necessary.

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) has been shown to be effective in improving quality of life, especially when included in an appropriate rehabilitation program. This is confirmed by research.

CBT helps you manage thoughts, concerns, emotions, and feelings, as well as how to cope with illness with a better attitude. It also helps to manage the distress derived from fatigue, daytime sleepiness, and the side effects of medications.

In addition to the support of a psychologist or psychiatrist, it’s possible to have the support of an occupational therapist to help you to live with Parkinson’s disease. Both can contribute to emotional and social well-being.

It’s also possible to try mindfulness and other techniques that clear the mind and relieve emotional tension. Many of them are easily accessible online, but also through face-to-face modalities in Parkinson’s associations and organizations.

On the other hand, we must not forget that in any illness, leisure activities are important to take care of emotional health. For this reason, they must be regularly integrated into the routine.

Elderly man who has to live with Parkinson's disease.
Living with Parkinson’s disease involves a group of supportive professionals.

Living with Parkinson’s disease isn’t only a matter of following the treatment, but also of maintaining flexibility, understanding and practicing kindness towards yourself.

Physical health

Having Parkinson’s doesn’t mean that you should give up exercise entirely. Rather, regular practice can help maintain good flexibility, coordination, and balance control. It also relieves tremors and muscle stiffness, which are common symptoms.

While it’s true that there will be days when it can be more difficult to exercise, it’s still possible to adjust the routine and do some stretches and simple movements. The important thing isn’t for the patient to become an athlete, but for them to maintain an active lifestyle, to the best of their ability.

Exercises such as yoga or tai chi are recommended options. However, they aren’t the only ones. Patients can choose many others, such as dance therapy, swimming, cycling and running.

To complement the benefits of exercise and the treatment prescribed by the doctor, it’s possible to resort to physiotherapy. This is always guided by professionals who establish routines and a series of movements with guidelines.

A social life with Parkinson’s disease

As with other health problems (such as migraines, for example), it’s recommended that Parkinson’s patients keep their closest social circle informed of their disease. They also need to learn to share their limitations on some occasions.

Talking, and keeping family, friends, and co-workers up to date won’t only help those close to you to be more empathetic on a day-to-day basis, but also more understanding. Especially when ups and downs arise and it isn’t possible to fulfill a commitment (such as a meeting or a party).

It isn’t necessary to give up productive activities (work) or leisure activities due to Parkinson’s. On the contrary, trying to reconcile these aspects with routine can contribute to well-being in a significant way.

Elderly people with Parkinson's share a moment.
The social aspect can’t be neglected when living with Parkinson’s. Links and maintaining relationships are important.

Planning for the future

In view of the fact that it’s a neurodegenerative disease, you’ll need to develop (in coordination with a team of experts) strategies that will help to prevent inconvenience in the future. This includes everything from adjusting your exercise routine to making changes to your home or residence, in order to make the area safer and more easily accessible.

Making the necessary arrangements to help with household chores and travel (to the supermarket, to the doctor, for example), will help to gain peace of mind. Patients must bear in mind that they aren’t alone, that there are social resources they can turn to, and that they can always consult them, both online and by phone.

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