Close associations with others that are important to emotional health and for a sense of well-being. For many people, friends are like extended family and it is sometimes easier to share worries and concerns with them than with family members. Yet friendships form for various reasons, and sometimes the common interests that bind friends disappear as Parkinson’s progresses. Friends who enjoyed playing golf together, for example, may struggle to find other common activities that the person with Parkinson’s can still do.
However close friends are, it is sometimes difficult for them to know how to respond to the challenge of a life-changing condition such as Parkinson’s disease. It is important to remember that despite the changes the person’s body is experiencing, the essence of the person remains. Common interests are still common interests, even if the person with Parkinson’s can no longer participate in them in the same ways. Sometimes there are ways to adapt to the person’s changing abilities, such as taking a golf cart instead of walking the course or watching golf on television. Sometimes friends can find other interests in common.
As with other relationships, open and honest communication is essential with friends. The person with Parkinson’s needs to make clear his or her limitations and constraints and not pressured to engage in activities that exceed them. This is not always easy, as the person with Parkinson’s does not want to prevent friends from enjoying favorite activities. But going along with them and then having a crisis is not beneficial for anyone. For the friend, it is important to pay close attention to the person’s state and to ask whether the person is becoming tired or is exceeding his or her abilities.
Friends should learn as much as possible about Parkinson’s disease, so they understand what is going on.
As Parkinson’s progresses, the symptoms make participating in social activities and events more difficult. This difficulty inherently limits contact with friends and can cause the person with Parkinson’s to feel isolated and lonely. Friends can help by making short visits. It is not necessary to entertain the person; generally just the shared companionship is very meaningful. Sometimes just sitting together is enough. Friends may also offer to stay with the person so the caregiver can get away for a while or help with tasks around the house that are not getting done. As it progresses, Parkinson’s disease demands more attention and time, leaving little of either for routine chores. Friends who can recognize what needs to be done and pitch in to get it done can make all the difference.