It is the time of year to reflect. Especially after this past year. Two things really resonate with me as I write today. A song and a conversation.
The song is from my favorite acapella group, Pentatonix. They have a new Christmas album with an original song titled “Thank You”, co-written by one of their founding members. This song is intended to be a tribute to those who helped them, and those who helped all of us, weather this trying year. It starts out as follows:
Oh, Lord, it’s been a year
With little joys and little fears
It’s finally here, Christmas Day
…I need some hope
A little faith, a hand to hold
It’s awfully cold, Christmas Day
The conversation occurred yesterday after our Rock Steady Boxing (Zoom) class. The identity of those involved is irrelevant, and frankly, sacred for conversations in this “safe” place. But the topic is critically important for our warriors and their caregivers alike-depression. We do each other a disservice by glossing over it or brushing it aside. The Parkinson’s Foundation estimates that 50% of those with PD suffer with depression and 40% suffer from anxiety. The Parkinson’s Outcomes Project found that taken together, mood, depression and anxiety have the greatest negative impact on health status for those with Parkinson’s, even more than the motor impairments commonly associated with PD. https://www.parkinson.org/Understanding-Parkinsons/Symptoms/Non-Movement-Symptoms/Depression
Depression in those with PD is caused, in large part, by the brain chemistry changes occurring with Parkinson’s Disease. The production of dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin are all affected by Parkinson’s changes to the brain’s structures and functions; all are chemicals involved in regulating mood, energy, motivation, appetite and sleep. Research has shown depression and anxiety can intensify the motor symptom dysfunctions of PD as well. How many of our warriors have said their tremors are worse when they are under stress. The Parkinson’s Foundation has found depression to be woefully underdiagnosed and under-treated in those with PD. And that is in “normal” years. All of the factors associated with depression and anxiety have been exponentially increased by the global pandemic, isolation, stress and loss of normalcy in 2020. The Parkinson’s Foundation set out the following recommendations for everyone who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease or Parkinsonism:
1. Get screened for depression at least once a year.
2. Discuss changes in mood with your healthcare professional (doctor).
3. Bring a family member to doctor’s appointments to discuss changes in your mood you might not recognize.
If you are having symptoms of anxiety, depression, personality changes, difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, lack of interest in normal activities, frequent crying or anger, contact your family doctor for a recommendation for a counselor/psychologist in your area. [This is not an exhaustive list of symptoms of depression or anxiety.] Most mental health providers are currently scheduling video appointments. You can also call the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) hotline 24/7 at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). As I’ve written before, our RSB community is a unique family. We are here for you if you need a shoulder. You never have to go it alone.
And let us not forget, depression and anxiety are prevalent in caregivers as well. The rewards that come with taking care of a loved one with PD are tangible, but so are the feelings of stress, fatigue, loss, lack of personal time and space, and loneliness. To help cope, The Parkinson’s Foundation suggests that caregivers:
1. Speak up, reach out to others in your same or similar situation (the rest of US!!)
2. Accept help and get some respite
3. Develop tools for stress management-meditation, walk, read, be alone
4. Be open with family and friends about what is involved daily in caregiving
6. And get professional help when you need it.
This is a very informative link for caregivers: https://www.parkinson.org/Living-with-Parkinsons/For-Caregivers/Caring-for-the-Caregiver/Caregiver-Stress
After Kristen posted some of my previous blogs, one or more of you asked me, “How can you still find the humor in caregiving”? For me, humor is a coping tool. And writing is a balm. But make no mistake, this has been a very hard process and an excruciatingly difficult year for me too. So, when I hear that some of you are feeling down, blue, depressed…I’m right there with you. And I strongly suspect, many, many of us feel the same way. Which is why… no one is alone. We need each other. Like the song says, “It’s been a year, with little joys and little fears…I need…a hand to hold”. This holiday season, I am a little sad, a little teary (I always miss my Mom immeasurably), a lot blessed and enormously thankful for each of you.