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Supporting someone with Parkinson's


Question: I am a caregiver for someone with advanced Parkinson's. He is very depressed and has never come to terms with his disease. He has been offered counseling services but refuses. He is a very in control, proud person who always had his way. He was a very successful businessman for many years. He has severe orthostatic hypotension so the doctors must be extremely careful of any drugs given him that would exacerbate this further. Any suggestions on encouraging him to seek professional help? Thank you.

Dr. Amy: This man is in a difficult situation. For much of his life, he has succeeded by being ‘in control’ and not asking for help. He likely has not been used to sharing sorrow or showing vulnerability. I wonder if he would be able to hear your concerns were you to try restrained empathy. Likely, he would not respond well if you expressed too much empathy. Rather, acknowledge his emotional style and the success he has achieved by being who he is. Acknowledge what he may be feeling now—anger, fear, disappointment, helplessness, despair. Then invite him to try something new—a different approach that involves reaching out and seeking help—in order to achieve a better quality of life. Position this as something that can help him maintain as much independence and quality of life as possible. If he will not seek help for himself, I wonder if he might do so for you or for the family? Often, people will do things they may be reluctant to do if someone close to them explains why it is important to them.  At the same time, it’s important to make sure his doctor is aware of the depression. If these symptoms can be alleviated, he may also be more open to seeking help. Good luck!

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