More than half of North West’s Parkinson’s sufferers feel like ‘zoo exhibits’

More than half of people with Parkinson’s in the North West have experienced hostility and rudeness from members of the public with one professor explaining that it makes sufferers feel like a ‘zoo exhibit’.

According to data released today by Parkinson’s UK on the launch of Parkinson’s Awareness Week, a third (34%) of people with Parkinson’s have been stared at, a quarter (25%) have had symptoms mistaken for drunkenness, and one in ten (11%) have been laughed at because of their symptoms. 

This hostility has a profound effect on people with Parkinson’s in the North West. Of those who experienced negative reactions, 50% said they were left feeling inferior, 38% felt intimidated and 27% felt invisible.

Professor David Burn, Parkinson’s UK Clinical Director and Consultant Neurologist, warned that insensitive public reactions could be wreaking untold damage on their mental health.

“It’s devastating to see the added burden thoughtless reactions from the public are having on people with Parkinson’s,” he said.

“Patients I see in the clinic are already battling a myriad of neurological symptoms including anxiety, depression and insomnia.

“The last thing they need is to feel like a zoo exhibit when they step out of their front door.”

Parkinson’s affects 127,000 people in the UK, and an estimated 14,000 in the North West.

With 45% of people with Parkinson’s in the North West experiencing depression and 62% suffering from anxiety as a result of their condition.

“It’s a situation where simple kindness and old-fashioned manners can actually have a life-changing impact on people with Parkinson’s,” Professor Burn added.

“Understanding, patience and empathy can make the difference to someone with Parkinson’s as to whether they feel imprisoned in their own home, or confident to go out in public.”

Susan Harbot, 65, from Horwich near Bolton, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s nine years ago and has had a number of negative reactions to her condition.

“I was getting up  from a disabled seat on my local bus wearing my  badge that states l have Parkinson’s when a gentleman asked me if my badge was a reason or an excuse for sitting in the disabled seat as clearly there was nothing wrong with me,” she said.

“The feeling of being completely misjudged stayed with me all day, it was horrible.

“I think the negative reactions upset my family more than they do me now. I’ve developed a tough skin over the years. 

“I just wish people would show some common courtesy. Parkinson’s isn’t a reason or an excuse, it’s just what I’ve got.”

The report also revealed the knock-on effects of public humiliation on people with Parkinson’s.

Almost one in three (30%) in the North West who had experienced discrimination and negative reactions would rather skip a meal and go hungry than venture out to the shops, and 18% admitted they feel trapped inside their homes because of these reactions.

To combat this, throughout Parkinson’s Awareness Week (20 – 26 April), Parkinson’s UK are urging people to ‘up your friendly’, by pledging to do small acts of kindness that can make an enormous difference to the lives of people with Parkinson’s.

Steve Ford, Chief Executive at Parkinson’s UK, explained.

“We certainly don’t expect people to be experts in knowing whether or not the person taking a little longer at the till, or looking unsteady on their feet is living with Parkinson’s,” he said.

“But by signing up to our new campaign with a small pledge  – to smile or be that bit more patient – you can have a real impact on the lives of people with Parkinson’s.”

You can find out more information about how to get involved in Parkinson’s Awareness Week for Parkinson’s UK by clicking here

Image courtesy of AP Photography, with thanks.

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