Critical for dr.'s to encourage patients to reach out to other patients

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    Cyndy Gilbertson

    It is critical that doctors encourage patients to reach out to interact with other patients in order to achieve their best quality of life.

    I cannot tell you how many times I have experienced a burst of energy, hope and spirit after interacting with another Parkinson patient. Just finding a safe place where you can interact without feeling awkward and embarrassed about symptoms, where you are accepted without judgment or assessment, and where you can laugh together about tossing food about or spilling a drink is reassuring. When another human being acknowledges your humanity, it feels good to be alive.

    If the contact is a result of participation in exercise classes, you garner additional benefits. The friendships formed make it easier to be consistent about maintaining an exercise regime, and a little competition may even challenge you to exceed your goals. The more we move, the more we are able to move. Like the Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz, we have to keep our joints oiled and in use in order to keep them from freezing.

    And when a disturbing new symptom rears its ugly head, frightening you with projections of impending disability, doom and despair, it is wonderful to hear the words, “Just stay the course. I’ve been there too.” We have all struggled and developed our own ways of coping with this disease. For tips on everyday survival, another patient is your best bet for an answer.

    I recently presented a workshop to Parkinson’s patients where I list and demonstrate 20 different approaches to break through a Parkinson’s freeze. I have also presented the same material to students studying physical and occupational therapy. The students always comment about how much they learn from hearing the patient’s point of view.

    Patients need to know that there is life after a Parkinson’s diagnosis. That can easily be confirmed by interaction with other vibrant “Parkies” who have come to value the positive aspects of their lives.

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