Receiving a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease can be overwhelming and difficult to come to terms with. It is a chronic and progressive neurological disorder that affects movement and can also impact cognitive function and emotional well-being. However, there are ways to navigate this new diagnosis and manage the symptoms that come with it. 

With World Parkinson’s Day coming up on Tuesday 11 April and April being Parkinson’s Awareness Month, we thought it was a good idea to share information about Parkinson’s Disease and focus on the 5 most important things to help deal with a new diagnosis. 

1. Educate Yourself 

One of the first steps in navigating a Parkinson’s diagnosis is to educate yourself about the disease. Parkinson’s is caused by the degeneration of dopamine-producing cells in the brain, leading to a shortage of this important neurotransmitter. This can result in symptoms such as tremors, stiffness, and difficulty with movement. It’s important to understand that while Parkinson’s is a progressive disease, the rate of progression varies widely between individuals. Some people may experience only mild symptoms for many years, while others may progress more rapidly. 

The Parkinson’s NZ website is a fantastic hub of information, and also provides a list of support options throughout both the North and South Islands 

2. Assemble Your Healthcare Team 

Another key component of managing Parkinson’s is finding the right healthcare team. This may include a neurologist, a movement disorder specialist, and a physical therapist, among others. Your healthcare team can help you develop a treatment plan that addresses your individual symptoms and needs. This may include medications, physical therapy, and lifestyle modifications such as exercise and diet. 

3. Change Your Lifestyle 

In addition to medical treatment, there are also many lifestyle changes that can help manage Parkinson’s symptoms. Exercise is especially important, as it can help improve balance, flexibility, and strength. It’s also important to maintain a healthy diet and stay hydrated. Some people with Parkinson’s may find that certain foods or drinks worsen their symptoms, so it may be helpful to keep a food diary to identify any triggers. 

4. Find Support 

Support from family, friends, and support groups can also be invaluable in navigating a Parkinson’s diagnosis. It’s important to have a strong support system to help you cope with the emotional and practical challenges of living with Parkinson’s. Support groups around New Zealand can also provide a sense of community and connection with others who are going through similar experiences. 

5. Think About Yourself 

Finally, it’s important to prioritise self-care and emotional well-being when living with Parkinson’s. This may include mindfulness practices, therapy, or engaging in hobbies and activities that bring joy and fulfilment. It’s important to find ways to maintain a sense of purpose and meaning in life, even as the disease progresses. 

While a Parkinson’s diagnosis can be challenging, it’s important to remember that there are resources and strategies available to help manage symptoms and maintain quality of life. By educating yourself, building a strong healthcare team and support system, making lifestyle modifications, and prioritizing self-care, it is possible to navigate this new diagnosis and live a fulfilling life with Parkinson’s.