For the first 7 years of being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, I didn’t see a need, nor did I have a strong desire to join a Parkinson’s disease support group. When I moved to the suburbs, my neurologist, at the time, encouraged me to see what support groups could offer. After attending meetings of a few support groups, my wife, Angela, and I envisioned what we wanted in a group. In a very short period, I went from avoiding Parkinson’s support groups to speaking at them and even starting one of my own. My wife and I ran our support group for a dozen years. I learned so much from so many amazing people. As much as I thought that I didn’t need a support group, it turned out, that I really did.
The reality is that a well-run support group offers camaraderie, information, and a wisdom that comes from so many, all in one place. A support group can show you what is working and what to avoid, doctor information and feedback, available classes that pertain to Parkinson’s, local therapists, caregiver support, Parkinson’s news, and speakers in your area. When you find a good group, it feels like another family and a place that you belong. A strong network of family and friends is crucial to your health and wellness, no matter what the illness.
Some support groups may not match your personality or may not be the kind of group that you feel comfortable with, right now. I wanted a group that focused on the sharing of information and left me more empowered than when I came in. We made a lot of friends, shared both the good times and the rocky times, and provided one-another moral support. Despite our age differences and unique situations, we all learned together and bonded together into a cohesive unit for most of the group’s longevity.
We Are All In This Together
Knowing that you aren’t alone, is so important. Something as small as telling someone that you are thinking of them or that they matter to you can save another’s life. Knowing that people are thinking about you and caring about you is so empowering. Just a simple quick text, an email, a phone call, or a good old-fashioned greeting card can make a huge impact.
Care-giving has its stressful moments. We all need a break. Taking time for ourselves is not selfish-it’s a precious necessity. Your self-care makes you a healthier more helpful contributor.
Helping Ourselves Helps Those Close To Us
Patient or caregiver, there is no shame in admitting that you need help. It takes a strong person to go outside his or her comfort zone. Tell someone close to you what you are feeling and to let them find assistance for you.
I am not an expert on mental health nor am I a doctor. This is not medical advice; it is only what I have seen for over the 30 plus years of having Parkinson’s disease. I have observed friends struggle, who may have benefited from this kind of help. If you see a friend in need, reach out and offer that help. You may be saving a life.
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is 800-273-8255 or 988 in the USA. Go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_suicide_crisis_lines for an international list of hotlines.
Fresh Starts Aren’t Always Necessary
It’s a new year and the thought of those resolutions on the club napkin are but distant memories. Seriously, resolutions can be wonderful intentions yet only to create a burden that wasn’t the intention in the first place. If you are truly goal-oriented, resolutions are simply extensions of those goals that are nagging you the most.
My biggest battle with my body and mind as I age with Parkinson’s disease is prioritizing:
- Contending with what I should do and what I don’t want to do.
- Weeding out projects that I really want to do but know I shouldn’t do.
- Identifying what I can let go of.
- There are things I must let go of just to get better.
There are sacrifices for one reason or another that we all must make. Illness doesn’t always influence our important decisions, but it can most assuredly be a contributor to the making of those decisions.
Illness provides a perspective for many of us, due to a pushing drive and a boosted sense of urgency. The only solution to quelling the nagging feeling, is fulfilling that drive to produce.
Trimming and Expanding
Most resolutions includes weight loss, health, reading more, less television, or a making more of or a reducing of something. Wanting to improve ourselves is the right direction to go, but if we go overboard, it may have a reverse effect and cause us stress, anxiety, and or tension. We must be careful to ensure that we aren’t doing ourselves a disservice by taking on too much. Knowing our stress level and not exceeding it is crucial to our well-being. Keep your stress level in mind as you monitor your health regimen and overall wellness. Be kind and forgiving to yourself whether you fall off the diet, or not. Stay committed to your projects of 2020! Best of luck!
Wishing all ASoftVoice.com readers a very Happy Holiday Season!
From Karl Robb:
On the morning of this chilly windy Thanksgiving day, I want to express my thanks for the support and sincere gratitude that I feel for the readers around the globe that take the time to read my writings on both this site (asoftvoice.com) and (www.parkinsonsdisease.net). I am so appreciative for family and friends. Gratitude is definitely the word of the day!
Thanksgiving reminds us that the things that we may take for granted and discount as small things in our lives, are really not so little at all. I hope that today is special for you. Please know that as I send this out to you in hope that it brightens your day. I wish you a day full of joy!
Those of us living with Parkinson’s disease and have a caregiver or care partner to assist us, may overlook or take our helpers for granted. Take the time to show your love and gratitude for all that your caregivers do for you. Show your support and make them aware of your appreciation and the changes that they make in your life. This is a thank you to all those selfless people who make life easier for those who need assistance.
Here are some tips for you and your carepartner/caregiver:
- Caring-Taking care of another can be a rewarding and spiritual adventure that can bring our relationships closer. In any relationship, there are caregiving challenges that will require patience, understanding, compassion, empathy, and possibly, even more patience.
- Stay Vigilant-You, the caregiver, are the cheerleader, coach, and trainer, all in one, for a team that may or may not show up. It is your responsibility, as a caring helper to be observant and to ensure that you not over tax yourself. You must see that you take respites and time for self-refreshment.
- Appreciation-My wife, Angela, is the most caring, most selfless, most generous, and most thoughtful person that I have ever met. Acknowledge and do your best in thanking those making a difference in your life. It’s so vital that those caring for us know that they are valued.
- Limits-If carepartners fail to monitor and maintain their own health, it is vital that those who care about them step up and say something.
- Watch for Burnout-Continuously caring for another takes a toll on body, mind, and spirit. If a caregiver overextends themselves, they are likely to face health, sleep, and stress related illnesses.
- Self-Care-Caretaking for yourself, even for a small part of your day can be calming, centering and help to keep you healthy. Keeping your identity and getting time for yourself is a health must for you and those around you. Just a few minutes a day can rejuvenate the entire body.
- Taking Your Time-Pay close attention to any changes in how you interact and communicate. If you find yourself on edge, quick to react, and overly sensitive or emotional, take a few moments to scan yourself and the situation. Just finding a quiet spot like an office nook to try some deep relaxing breathing may quiet things down.
- Knowing your Limits-This requires knowing one’s self. Monitoring your condition is as important as the patient’s status. As a team, if the caregiver can function well, the patient sees those benefits as well. Taking care of yourself is the best gift that you can give to those that you love.
It’s hard to take care of others well, if you aren’t well. Take care of yourself and thank you!
Rock Steady Boxing and my coach, Alec Langstein (https://rocksteadynova.com/), have made me stronger, fitter, and quicker. There is a definite and noticeable improvement in my mobility, agility, and balance. When I am hitting a heavy bag, I will hit it hard but when given the chance to hit with someone wearing focus mitts, I always hit harder, faster, and with more intensity. There is just something about the human interaction that makes me want to step it up a little and to put in even more effort. My coach and my boxing mates motivate me to do my best and to push myself to excel.
Rock Steady Boxing, three days a week, has made a very noticeable difference in my stamina, my overall condition, and my life. I am in the best shape of my life, if you don’t count the Parkinson’s disease—it sounds hard to believe, but it is true.
Finding What Works For You
Motivating words and cuing from my coach, my care partner/spouse, or even a concerned bystander can help me to work harder and find strength that I didn’t know was there. Music moves me, makes me box harder, focus better, and picks up my spirit, all at once. Digging deep down for strength has taught me that if I push myself, just a little more, I may be able to do a little more than I thought.
I encourage everyone with Parkinson’s seeking inspiration, motivation, and an exercise program to check out Rock Steady Boxing in their area. Finding that right exercise, therapy, or practice that feeds your spirit, is so important. Don’t wait or stop trying to find what works for you—time is precious!
Epic sports comeback stories are reminders for us all that sometimes the underdog wins. When in the face of adversity, when pressed, the team that you discount will surprise you and overcome the odds. Sports teams, like the Washington Nationals Baseball Team proved so many supposed experts and sports journalists wrong. The Nationals won the wild card series and went on to take the World Series from the Houston Astros in game seven. The Nationals (@Nationals) future looked bleak after the Astros won game five. Somehow, what looked like an unfathomable task, turned around.The team rallied to fight back and won to go on to the definitive game seven and win away from home.
Sports emulates life. Washington celebrates the accomplishments of the Washington Capitals hockey team, the Washington Mystics women’s basketball team, and now the Washington Nationals. All three have brought the DC area great excitement and energy. This remarkable baseball team found a win just when it needed it and thrived when their backs were to the wall. Like magicians, they somehow manifested what they needed at just the right time.
“Sometimes, it’s fun to do the impossible.”
We all face challenges in our lives that look insurmountable but if we hold on to the inspiration and belief that we can do something amazing, we may very well go beyond our limits. Walt Disney said, “Sometimes, it’s fun to do the impossible” and that’s what the Nationals achieved last night.
Congratulations to the Nationals for their amazing win!
Today, 9-11, marks an historic and tragic event that not only shook America but the entire World. The attacks of the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, PA impacted the World, changing everyone’s lives. This day will forever commemorate the lives lost that tragic day and the heroism of the men and women who met the challenge of saving lives while risking their own. For a very brief period, I saw something that I had never truly witnessed, experienced, and appreciated.
On the frenzied morning of the fall of the Twin Towers, my wife and I were stranded in Atlanta where rental cars were nearly unattainable. Planes were grounded and we needed to get back to the DC area. The country seemed under attack and we were acutely alert, vigilant, and nearly paranoid–but, something beautiful rose out of the fear and chaos.
For about three weeks or so, a warm and loving blanket of compassion covered much of the World as citizens gave of themselves. In this time of immediate need, when so many were in shambles, volunteers ran to assist in various ways, just to be kind and of service. This is the best part of humanity–the caring, giving, sharing, and loving part that unites our citizen’s eternal hope and fortitude.
The acts of kindness like receiving a much needed rental car from someone that we barely knew, so that we could get closer to home, renewed our faith in doing good.The coming together and generosity reminded me that goodness still existed. An horrific event that took so many innocent lives brought us all together. I treasure the wonderful camaraderie of pride and love for humanity that shone for that gorgeous but ever so brief moment in time.
I have hobbies: I write, I read, I travel, I photograph, I do Reiki, and I collect shark’s teeth. Shark’s teeth are elegant, silky, shiny and smooth. They come in all shapes, sizes, colors, textures, and tones. Just like people with Parkinson’s disease, all the teeth are totally unique and full of character. The teeth are technically a waste product of discarded chompers that are fossilized over long periods of time. Some are black, brown, gray, speckled, multi-toned, sharp, dull, serrated, or pointed.
I can’t explain the connection that I have to these tiny but beautiful pieces of art. Nature and time have created a cornucopia of remarkable masterpieces. Some pieces are almost gem-like, worthy of display and adornment. Often, their beauty is overlooked, underappreciated, and cast aside because beachcombers fail to recognize what is right in front of them. They fail to identify the magnificence and uniqueness of the diversity of each and every piece. The teeth are results of wear and tear from years of natural forces, while being tumbled through swirling water and abrasive sand. The varieties of sharks combined with the range of conditions affecting the teeth, create a product that is easily underappreciated and often overlooked.
Diversity, it is to be respected and upheld, for without diversity, the world would be boring and tasteless. The splash of colors and striations throughout some of the teeth are due to minerals and variations from the water’s varying pH level. These imperfections in the teeth, add beauty and character, plus they make each tooth memorable and one of a kind.
It takes a fresh perspective to look at something so common, with new eyes. We must look deep and see what is there and not be influenced by what others may want us to see. Some will try to influence what we see. Most of us know what is right and what is wrong. Appreciating these teeth took realization and a level of understanding. I see their beauty even if some do not.
Trust me, I am not a reminder service, nor am I a medical professional, but with the soaring heat of summer, it may not be a bad idea for a few reminders to help keep your life a little safer:
- If you are taking Sinemet, pay close attention to direct sun exposure. Make sure to wear sunscreen and protection from the rays, so as not to burn.
- Check your medications for sun exposure side effects and talk to your neurologist and dermatologist about any moles, rashes, burns or bumps that are irregular, uneven, painful, changing color, or simply suspicious.
- Some of us with Parkinson’s have the challenge of self-regulating our body temperature. It is so vitally important to keep cool and to monitor if the sun is having any impact on you.
- Keep hydrated! I had a friend who was only drinking a little more than 4 ounces a day. When I found out how little he was drinking and he came back to hydration, my wife and I were amazed to see voice improvement, better cognition, better balance, and I dare say, a healthier look to his skin.
- If you have a pet or child, never leave them in a closed car without cool air blowing and water access.
- Don’t forget that many surfaces like concrete, blacktop, decking surfaces, and even wood can get blazing hot, making it very uncomfortable for paws and bare feet. If you have poor circulation or neuropathy, this could be very important.
- Be aware of your surroundings and your comfort always. Keeping aware will avoid some of those sun hazards.
- People with Parkinson’s are notorious for being deficient in vitamin D. Sunlight is great to help replenish your vitamin D level but pay close attention to too much direct exposure. Choose your time of day outside wisely and monitor your local weather for the safest time to walk your dog or go to the garden.
- Don’t forget a hat and sunglasses!
- Be sure to remember to always crack open at least one car window so you don’t return to a blistering seat and stifling air!
Use good, safe, solid, logic about being in the sun at its least intensity and keep cool!