There is a common, unfunny, and overused joke about not playing poker with people who have Parkinson’s disease because many of us have reduced facial movement and it can be hard to read our expressions. This is masking, as I understand it. Sometimes the muscles for smiling just do not work well. Speech clarity and projection are vital to being understood. Being heard under a cloth mask when one has voice issues makes life frustrating for both the speaker and the listener.
Now, to make matters more of a challenge, add practicing social distancing, having a problem with your speech, having a softer voice, and placing a mask over that soft voice. For someone with Parkinson’s disease, the combination of muffling the mouth, relying on just the eyes can be deceptive, and poor vocal projection, all add up to not being easily understood and worsens communications.
For some of us with Parkinson’s disease, our eyes are not as expressive or fluid as we would like, added to the tightening of facial, neck, and jaw muscles. Dry mouth, too much saliva, swallowing issues, and dental problems can all contribute to someone with Parkinson’s speech challenges.
Sight and Sound are Covered
Communication in a marriage is crucial and in this new COVID-19 pandemic of being home sequestered, the sharing of information is close and continuous. To maintain human interaction with family and friends by phone or new social technologies, takes a little practice.
Be sure that while under the fabric facial mask, (if your jaw is ok), to move your mouth, lips, and jaw. Exercising the facial muscles can add to your expressions. Do not just hide your face under the mask. Remember that you are going to have to speak louder, slower, and clearer, especially, with a mask covering your mouth. One more challenge to tackle. We can do it!
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.
Last Saturday, my wife, Angela and I had the great privilege to address over 300 people with Parkinson’s and their carepartners/caregivers in beautiful and historic Williamsburg, VA at the American Parkinson Disease Association (APDA) Virginia Education Day. This event was hosted by the APDA Hampton Roads Chapter and the APDA Richmond Metro Chapter.
Angela and I participated in a couples talk with Charlie and Cammy Bryan, who are well known for their state-wide work, writing and advocacy. We really enjoyed working with them! The moderator, Don Bradway, knows both couples and did a masterful job of getting us to talk about our lives, perspectives on Parkinson’s disease, and our philosophy on living well with Parkinson’s. We got to meet so many amazing people who are living well with Parkinson’s!
Neurologists from around Virginia did an informative panel on understanding, managing, and living with Parkinson’s disease. My friend and fellow advocate, Bob Pearson did a talk with a neurologist on the importance of clinical trials and his experiences in participating in these studies. A clinical dietitian, Ms. Ka Wong from Hunter Holmes McGuire Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center in Richmond did a very informative talk on inflammation and diet.
The final breakout, held concurrently with the caregiving session, was a panel introduction to the benefits of a variety of therapies including PWR!, Rock Steady Boxing, Yoga, LSVT/BIG and SPEAKOUT!, and Tai Chi! My wife attended the caregiver session which was a panel discussion with three family caregivers. This panel shared their experiences on a variety of caregiver issues, provided informational tips and offered resources.
What was unique about this conference was the variety of people sharing their knowledge with our Parkinson’s community – those living with Parkinson’s, the medical community, allied health professionals and more. This event happens every other year and brings Virginia’s Parkinson’s community together to review the developments in Parkinson’s disease, to inform, to inspire, and to educate.
Online registration is still open until 9/25 for the 2019 APDA Virginia Education Day being held next Saturday 9/28 (9am-4pm) at the DoubleTree Williamsburg.
Registration is only $25 for this day long event which includes speakers on a variety of important topics including:
-People who have Parkinson’s discussing how they live well with Parkinson’s
-Neurologists discussing how to people can live well with Parkinson’s
-Caregiver discussing tips and tricks
-Exercise panel discussing PWR!, Rock Steady Boxing, Tai Chi. Yoga and BIG
and much more!