What are the first steps for someone newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s?

Sitting in his car, shaken after receiving his first MRI, Bob Smith knew his world had changed. A neurologist had diagnosed his Parkinson’s disease a few weeks earlier, but the reality didn’t truly hit until that moment. He was terrified.

 

“I didn’t know what to do,” recalls Smith. “I thought my life was over.” At the time of his diagnosis in 2006, Smith was a high-profile landscape architect in Denver. But over the next four years, his health and physical abilities decreased considerably. He became isolated and bitter. Then, in 2011, his wife and friends held an intervention that motivated Smith to get back on his feet. Once he changed his habits and his perspective Smith’s symptoms drastically improved.

 

As a result of his transformation, Smith decided to write a book recounting his difficult journey and offering advice to others with PD. “I wrote The Parkinson’s Playbook to inspire hope,” he says, “and to share that by changing your lifestyle you can have a full and happy life.”

 

Here are his top five steps to take after a PD diagnosis: 

 

Understand your diagnosis. Ask about your PD stage and symptoms. Discuss medication options and their side effects, as well as lifestyle changes that may slow disease progression. Ask, ask, and ask again; and if you’re not getting good answers, find another neurologist.

 

Form a PD team. You can’t do it alone. From physicians to personal trainers to family, it takes teamwork and specialists to manage Parkinson’s.

 

Know your medications. Over time, the type and dosage of your Parkinson’s medications will probably change. Be aware of potential side effects.

 

Follow a fitness plan. Exercise can do wonders for your PD symptoms. But it’s important to work with a personal trainer experienced with PD. These experts can design a plan that is tailored to your symptoms to keep you safe while you become stronger. 

 

Master the mental and emotional game. One of the hardest parts about Parkinson’s is dealing with the depression, stress, and anxiety that often come with it. Consider consulting a mental health professional, or try completing small daily tasks to help boost your mood such as recording three things you’re grateful for, performing random acts of kindness, or meditating.

 

 

Orginally printed in MoreThanMotion, Spring 2018.