Receiving a Parkinson's diagnosis is likely to affect the relationships you have with friends and family. Over time gradual adjustments will be needed on both sides of a relationship as you each adapt to life with Parkinson’s. Roles may change and as a couple you may find yourselves taking on the role of carer and cared for. It is important to allow time for everyone to adapt and adjust gradually.
As with all relationships, communication is vital, particularly if you find yourself feeling anxious or stressed. If Parkinson’s makes you withdrawn or you have low self-esteem, perhaps because of your symptoms, this can strain relationships so talk openly about how you feel. Sharing feelings with your partner if you have one can help you both cope. If you find this difficult then try talking to others who are close to you or to your doctor.
Talking in itself can be therapy rather than bottling up emotions. Remember it’s fine to cry. Try to laugh too though as this releases chemicals in the brain which will make you feel better.
Each person will deal with Parkinson’s and the effects it has on their relationship in their own individual way. Don’t have set expectations of how life and your roles will now be. Everyone is different and you will cope better if you remain open-minded, try to understand how others are feeling, and adapt as the need arises over time.
Look after yourself and find time to relax as this will help your overall wellbeing and can reduce any tensions or negativity you feel.
Sometimes a relationship may break down, for reasons that may or may not be related to your Parkinson’s. If this happens it is important to accept the situation and to move forward. Talking to those close to you or to counsellors can be helpful. Setting goals or making plans for things that you can look forward to may also help.
If you find yourself in a new relationship it is up to you when you tell them that you have Parkinson’s. This is a very personal decision and there is no ‘right’ time so wait until you feel comfortable. You can't decide for someone else if they want a relationship with you, so be yourself and see what happens. Some people may be put off by knowing you have Parkinson's, but lots of people won't.
Tips for coping with relationship changes
- Make sure you continue to do activities with those close to you, even if you have to adapt them to make them easier.
- Maintain a sense of independence. You should have time to be alone and do your own thing, as well as doing things with close family and friends.
- Take any opportunity to reverse the caring role.
- Find mutual activities where you can be equals, for example playing board games or socialising with friends.
- Keep communicating with each other.
- Don't be afraid to look for help if you find it hard to sort out problems. Professionals such as occupational therapists, Parkinson's specialist nurses, counsellors and psychologists may be able to offer support.
- Talk to other people with Parkinson's and their families who have been in a similar situation. There are many online forums where people openly discuss their difficulties and solutions.
- Get help before any problems get serious.