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The The Parkinsonís Outcomes Project reports that negative mood and depression have the greatest impact on health status and that 40% of people with PD experience depression and/ or anxiety disorder. These symptoms seem to have even greater impact on quality of life than motor symptoms. April is Parkinsonís Awareness Month. Most people immediately think of tremors and muscle stiffness when asked to name a symptom of Parkinsonís disease (PD). But what about symptoms that canít be seen, only experienced by the people living with this progressive neurological disease?
Thereís a parallel here to people living with Alzheimerís disease (AD), massage and Daffodils. It appears that emotions may outlast the memory of the event that triggered the emotion, according to a 2010 study conducted by Justin Feinstein reported in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States. In other words, if a person with AD has a happy experience, say from a family visit (or a massage!) he will continue to feel happy for a period of time even though he quickly forgets the actual visit.
Thereís a lot of talk these days about words especially when we referring to bullying for teenagers however we need to think about the power of our words on all ages. Lots of talk to describe people over a certain age, say 60 or so. Elder versus elderly. Elder community or eldercare services instead of nursing home. Care partner instead of elderly caregiver. Older adults rather than senior citizens. Iím especially sensitive to what we call people who are living with severe conditions or are quite frail from age. I know plenty of these folks and Iím here to tell you they are not invalids. Think about that word! Invalid. In (without) valid (validity). Really? Thatís like saying youíre sick, youíre old, you donít matter anymore.
Are you familiar with "nature deficit disorder"? The term, ďNature deficit disorderĒ was coined by Richard Louv. As our world has become increasingly high-tech our connection to the natural world has diminished. Iíve often heard this associated with our kids but I see it in our elders in hospice and palliative care too. In my hospice training with elderly caregivers, I teach how to use Compassionate Touch to enhance quality of life. Iíve been in lots of hospice and palliative care facilities around the country. Itís striking how little exposure institutionalized elders have to nature. Real nature. The kind that gets us dirty and we get our feet and hands in soil, water, leaves, etc. Real sounds of birds, not in a cage in the lounge, but real, local nature sounds.
When we go to someone in need with an open heart and our belief that there is potential for peaceÖwhen we believe in the patientís ability to grow, and in our ability to be presentÖwhen we participate, instead of fix, we companion a fellow human being and that, indeed, changes the experience of illness, dying, and grief.