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How to Reduce Social Isolation While Living with Parkinson’s

how-to-reduce-social-isolation-while-living-with-parkinsons

How to Reduce Social Isolation While Living with Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s isn’t always pretty.

There are the physical limitations, the inability to speak loudly and clearly, the beeping of your phone to remind you to take your meds, the tremor, the shuffling, the drooling, the facial masking, the lack of balance, the frustration, the canes and the walkers and the significant and often very heavy load of vulnerability you carry with you everywhere you go.

These are some of the realities you may be living with every day.

Which is why it’s not surprising that many people living with Parkinson’s choose to isolate themselves. By limiting your contact with the outside world, you have less explaining to do. And you can avoid situations that make you feel like you aren’t part of the healthy club anymore.

The problem with disconnecting is that social isolation can exacerbate your symptoms, put you at risk for developing other health problems, increase your chances of experiencing depression, accelerate cognitive decline and decrease your quality of life.

So what can you do to avoid the temptation to isolate and get reconnected to the world around you?

Before we offer suggestions, let’s first define social isolation and its relationship to loneliness. Many people have used these terms interchangeably, but research indicates that decoupling them may allow for greater insight, even if they are ideally researched simultaneously.

Social isolation is characterized by having a small social network and infrequent participation in social activities. Loneliness, on the other hand, is a personal interpretation of a psychological state. It’s about perceiving that you have a lack of social support. So, someone who is socially connected could still feel very lonely. And someone who does not have any social connections may not feel lonely at all.

Now that we know what it is, here’s what being socially connected can do for you.

Benefits of Social Connectedness

People who are more socially connected…

  • Have more access to information
  • Have more access to transportation options
  • Receive more emotional support
  • Are more influenced by and likely to pursue healthy behaviors
  • Have more financial resources
  • Take advantage of community programs
  • Experience better physical and mental health
  • Manage stress, change and loss in more productive ways
  • Bounce back from physical setbacks more quickly
  • Are less likely to engage in risky behaviors
  • Seek out opportunities to help others in ways that in return give them physical and mental health benefits as well

So why is it that with all of the evidence pointing to the benefits of social connectedness, is it so hard for some people to come out of hiding?

Because putting yourself out in the world as someone with Parkinson’s isn’t easy.

Many people living with Parkinson’s—especially in the early days of their diagnosis when so much is new and unknown—are trying on a brand new identity while also trying to keep their old one intact.

Maybe you can relate.

You read all of the great things people are doing while living with Parkinson’s, but you wonder and often doubt if that can be your reality too.

As a person with Parkinson’s, you may want to share your diagnosis because it’s such a relief to finally have a name for what you’ve been feeling and experiencing, and yet you fear how others will view you once they know.

You know you may need some help now or someday soon, but the idea of being a burden is enough to keep quiet and vow to do it all on your own.

Still, even while accepting all of these challenges as real, the research is clear: social isolation is a health risk, and with Parkinson’s already taking up permanent residency in your new normal, taking control of what you can control can make a significant difference in how well you live with it.

If you (or someone you care about) is using isolation as a way of coping with a diagnosis of Parkinson’s, here are a few small actions you can take to become more connected and live well today. Some of the suggestions below require very little time and energy and others demand more. Start where you are.

If being more socially active makes you feel anxious, start small. (If it makes you so anxious you can’t move forward, please consider reaching out to a therapist who can help you through it.)

One way to start small is by making a deal with yourself to take one action a week or do one new activity this month. There’s no value in putting pressure on yourself. Choose an activity that challenges you to stretch but doesn’t put so much stress on you that you can’t reap the rewards of doing it.

The good news is if you’re like many of the people we’ve worked with who have moved from being socially isolated to feeling like engaged members of their community, once you get a taste of what it feels like to make more connections, you’ll hardly be able to stop.

Ways to Connect

Or, come up with your own idea. Every little bit counts because Every Victory Counts®.

 Learn more about the research on the effects of social isolation.

 

Looking for some extra support? Reach out to an Ambassador today.

Our Ambassadors are volunteers who share resources and information throughout their local and regional communities to help people take action and improve their quality of life with Parkinson’s. If you’re nervous about putting yourself out there or unsure of how to connect with others about your experience with Parkinson’s, connect with one of our Ambassadors and get the support you need.

6 Comments on “How to Reduce Social Isolation While Living with Parkinson’s

    • Lynnette J Larsen

      July 15, 2018 at 12:37 pm Reply

      This was a good article. My deceased husband had Parkinson’s and I was his caregiver. Now I, at 72, find myself diagnosed also. I have ramped up my exercise programs, live in a golf community and am starting back to playing after the care-giving, meet friends at least twice a week for dinner and more. Thanks for additional info – I hope to fight hard and long!

      • Alex Reinhardt

        July 17, 2018 at 4:05 pm Reply

        Keep up the great work, Lynnette!

    • Steve Wilson

      July 15, 2018 at 3:01 pm Reply

      Excelant article..Our exercise group has morphed into an exercise / support group.. If you don’t feel well at the start of the exercise you certainly feeln better when you leave..

      • Alex Reinhardt

        July 17, 2018 at 4:03 pm Reply

        That’s a wonderful idea! Thanks for commenting, Steve! Exercise will certainly boost your mood and is a great way to meet new people!

    • Diane

      September 12, 2018 at 1:05 pm Reply

      When are you going to bring your program to Boise, Idaho? We’re waiting🤷‍♀️

      • Melani Dizon

        September 14, 2018 at 8:44 am Reply

        Hi Diane – We would love to make it to Boise! Hopefully, we’ll be able to do so in 2020 or after.

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