How to Be an Encouraging Companion to a Friend or Relative with Parkinson’s Disease
The Buddy Program
Parkinson’s disease patients and students at the University of Louisville Medical School have a mutually beneficial opportunity to join a program that meets once a month to discuss the disease. “The Buddy Program,” as it is called, pairs students with Parkinson’s patients for a year (September through April) and allows the participants to meet for a few hours each month to talk about living with this disease. The program is expected to help students grasp Parkinson’s on a more empathetic level than can occur in a classroom alone as well as benefit the patients by giving them a friend whom they can talk to about the disease.
The Importance and Practical Applications of Companionship
Parkinson’s disease, which is a neurological condition characterized by tremors, stiffness, and speech problems, may be helped through various types of therapy. Although no cure has yet been found, there is an array of options available to ease the effects of the disease, and having a friend is one thing that can help tremendously. Having someone to talk to about symptoms, as the Buddy Program tries to do, can take some of the burden off the patient’s internal struggle, but a personal friend can also act as a cheerleader, caregiver, and partner through therapy and difficulties in everyday life.
Friends and relatives of a Parkinson’s patient have many options and opportunities to offer some much-needed encouragement by engaging in various activities with the patient and developing a relationship that will add to their own life as well. Below are some activities suitable for all.
The Buddy Program was developed to pair college students with Parkinson’s disease patients for a period of one month so they can discuss the disease in detail in a more comfortable setting. It allows the participants to meet up for a couple of hours each month to talk about what it is like to live with this condition. The main goal of the program is to help the students better grasp what Parkinson’s disease is on an empathetic level, rather than a theoretical one taught in a classroom. It would also benefit the patient by providing them with a friend to whom they can speak their heart about what they are going through with Parkinson’s.
The friends and family members of those suffering from Parkinson’s have multiple ways to be the required support for their loved one so as to engage them in different activities and at the same time develop a relationship that would help them as well. Below are a few such activities:
- Parkinson’s tends to impair the speech of the affected patient, leading to them speaking differently than normal people; some individuals slur their words and sound similar to stroke victims, whereas others talk faster than usual. This, then, requires a great deal of patience and listening to understand their conversations.
- Due to stiffness in the muscles, Parkinson’s patients are often discouraged from carrying out any kind of rigorous activity, but it is equally important for them to exercise in order to maintain their strength. Exercise is very important for the overall health of the individual. Patients can try yoga, aerobics, swimming, or any resistance activity to stay active.
- Try to go for relaxing walks with the patient; this would not only provide a light mode of exercise for them, but it can also offer a change of scenery and lead to deep, stimulating conversations. The individual should try to engage the patient in certain brain activities as well, such as puzzles, riddles, or game shows on TV. All of these help to maintain sharpness in the brain.
- Reading is known to provide a considerable amount of strength to the brain and also prevents cognitive decline. So, reading is crucial, especially for elderly people, and should be included in the patient’s daily life, if possible. Get details on what genres and topics are of interest to the patient and find books relating to these for them.
- Check to see if you can make a meal for the patient if they haven’t already or if someone else can do so. Obviously, whether it is a patient or a normal person, no one wants to live in a mess, but Parkinson’s often makes it difficult to carry out simple tasks due to tremors. So, giving them a surprise would be a great help and a welcome distraction.