Some studies have shown that, although Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease are distinct neurological disorders, as many as 25 percent of patients with Alzheimer’s develop Parkinson’s-like symptoms, and some Parkinson’s patients develop signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Having known a woman who entered a nursing home with Parkinson’s and was later found to have Alzheimer’s, I’ve been curious about this combination.
After reading “Living Well With Parkinson’s Disease: What Your Doctor Doesn’t Tell You…That you Need to Know” by Gretchen Garie and Michael J. Church, co-founders of Movers and Shakers, with Winifred Conkling, I was grateful to the authors for making the educational experience so interesting. I’ll admit that I always feel a little put off by books that use “What your doctor doesn’t know” in the title, because I feel it’s a bit gimmicky, but I’m glad I didn’t let that stop me. This book is not anti-doctor, but it encourages patient education and some alternative thinking, which I think is a good thing.
This is a readable, personal book. Here are two people - a couple - who both suffer from Parkinson’s disease. They have children. They had the courage to found an organization that helps others (and even have the sense of humor to give the organization the whimsical, though descriptive name of “Movers and Shakers”). “Living Well with Parkinson’s” is the best primer on the disease I’ve seen. It’s not off-putting like a text book can be, yet it covers a ton of information.
The book uses the experiences of many real people who suffer from Parkinson’s, which is something that always attracts me to a book. During the discussion on surgery - the pros and cons - the reader doesn’t get a “yes, do this” or “no, never” answer. There are examples of different people with different results. That, unfortunately, is the real world. No easy answers. They are positive thinkers, but realistic about the disease.
There’s an excellent chapter for the caregivers of people with Parkinson’s disease, which, of course, is pertinent to all caregivers. The first item is “Don’t surrender your life to your loved one with Parkinson’s.” Sounds familiar, right?
“Living Well With Parkinson’s” gives the reader tips on finding the right doctor, which is so important, whether we’re coping with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, vascular dementia, rheumatoid arthritis, diabetes or just plain aging.
The authors discuss new treatment options and alternative therapies. They write with authority on the subject of overcoming daily challenges and maintaining a positive outlook. They have children, so they know the challenges of keeping family relationships open and healthy. And, finally, they are realistic about the financial challenges, including employment options and health insurance problems. There’s a valuable index, as well as a list of resources.
I truly enjoyed the organization of the book, the intimate tone and the openness of the authors and the thoroughness of the subject matter. I particularly enjoyed the way they offer hope and a forward-looking attitude. They refuse to say, “Life is over now that we’ve got this disease.”
Garie, Church, and Conkling pack a lot of information in this modest looking book. I’m impressed. In, “Living Well With Parkinson’s Disease,” I found much of interest for people who don’t have the disease or even know someone with it. It’s simply a good book about surviving the rigors of life as many people do, challenged by bodies, and sometimes minds, that don’t do what we want them to do. This couple copes well and has much to offer. "Living Well With Parkinson’s Disease is published by Collins (2007) and is available on-line.
Carol Bradley Bursack is a veteran family caregiver who spent more than two decades caring for a total of seven elders. She is a newspaper columnist and the author of Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories. Bradley Bursack is also a contributor to several books on caregiving and dementia, and is passionate about preserving the dignity of elders. Her website is www.mindingourelders.com. Follow Carol on Twitter @mindingourelder and on Facebook at Minding Our Elders.