Ten Things Every Parkinson's Patient & Caregiver Should Know

by David L. Cram, M.D.

Ten Things Every Parkinson's Patient Should Know

  1. Remember the importance of a positive attitude.
  2. Establish a good relationship with your doctor.
  3. Learn as much as you can about your disease.
  4. Maintain a daily exercise program.
  5. Take your medications on time exactly as prescribed.
  6. Don't let the disease consume you - you are the master.
  7. Contribute some service to your community-it will nourish you emotionally and get your focus off yourself.
  8. Attend support groups.
  9. Remain as independent as you can for as long as you can.
  10. Live each day to the fullest and never lose hope.

Ten Things Every Caregiver of a Parkinson's Patient Should Know

  1. Understand the importance of taking care of yourself, too.
  2. Realize it is normal to experience a range of feelings-anger, sadness, loneliness, guilt, resentment.
  3. Learn constructive ways to channel emotions-exercise, talk with friends, journal, or practice relaxation techniques.
  4. Practice positive self-talk.
  5. Recognize depression and get help for it.
  6. Arrange to make time for yourself-your interests and friends.
  7. Attend support groups and talk about your problems.
  8. Learn how to face your loved one's physical challenges.
  9. Let a loved one do as much as possible while he/she is still able.
  10. Deepen your faith and spirituality.

David Cram, M.D., was a 54-year old physician with a thriving medical practice in 1989. He was at the peak of his career. Life was good. It was only when his fatigue persisted that he sought medical attention. His reaction was one of stunned disbelief when he got the diagnosis: Parkinson's Disease. Feeling alone and useless, withdrew from others and spiraled into a depression. Soon, he had to retire from the work he loved.

Today, ten years later, Dr. Cram has a much different attitude. He responded well to medications and chose to fight the depression that threatened to consume him. He waged a "crusade" to help himself and others. "I started going to support groups and talking to others, asking what had worked for them. I tried to learn everything I could about the disease," Dr. Cram said. The result of that crusade is a new book, "Understanding Parkinson's Disease-A Self-Help Guide". "Self-help won't cure you, but it can certainly help reduce the severity of symptoms. Once I decided to stop wallowing in self pity, I realized that I could do a lot to help myself."

Dr. Cram is among the nearly half-million Americans who have Parkinson's Disease. Another 40,000 will be diagnosed this year. Parkinson's is a chronic, progressive brain disorder, caused by a deficiency of the chemical dopamine in the brain. Major symptoms include tremor, rigidity, slowed movement, and impaired coordination. The average age of onset in 57, although the disease can strike younger individuals.

Presently, there is no cure for the illness; however, the disease can be managed primarily with medications to restore dopamine levels. Other treatments for select individuals include surgery and electrical stimulation to parts of the brain.

© 2000 David Cram, MD, Published by arrangement with Addicus Books. All Rights reserved.


David L. Cram, M.D. was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 1989. Dr. Cram is the author of "Understanding Parkinson's Disease: A Self-Help Guide" (Addicus Books, 1999).



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