LETTER: Make a difference to Parkinson’s sufferers

JANE ASHER ... has supported Parkinson's UK for 15 years.
JANE ASHER ... has supported Parkinson's UK for 15 years.

MY brother-in-law was diagnosed with Parkinson’s about 15 years ago, and was my original inspiration for joining Parkinson’s UK.

I have supported and worked with them ever since, and over the years have seen at first hand the pain and struggles that living with this devastating condition can entail.

Today is the start of Parkinson’s Awareness Week – and a new survey from Parkinson’s UK has revealed that an estimated 69,000 people in the UK with Parkinson’s have experienced hostility and rudeness from members of the public.

It’s unbearable to think of the suffering this can cause – it’s bad enough, for example, having a long-term, incurable condition which can cause you to slur your speech and be unsteady on your feet, without being mistaken by a member of the public of being drunk.

I was shocked by the enormous number of people with Parkinson’s who regularly come up against public misunderstanding and unintentional cruelty – a third of people in our survey have been stared at, a quarter had their symptoms mistaken for drunkenness, and one in 10 have been laughed at because of their symptoms.

This hostility can have a profound effect on people with Parkinson’s, increasing their depression and anxiety, and leaving some people too frightened to leave their homes.

To combat this, we are urging people to become friendlier by pledging to do small acts of kindness such as smiling and being more patient.

In particular, we ask people not to make assumptions or jump to conclusions that can make an enormous difference to all of us – especially people with Parkinson’s.

I do hope your readers will join me in pledging to make a difference.

For more information on Parkinson’s Awareness Week, visit upyourfriendly.com

Jane Asher,

President, Parkinson’s UK,

215 Vauxhall Bridge Road,

London.

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