In April, we come together to shed light on a condition that affects millions globally. As we step into Parkinson’s Awareness Month, it’s not just about recognising the unimaginable challenges that those living with the condition face, but also about fostering understanding, education and empathy. 

Parkinson’s is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder in which the brain cells that make dopamine begin to die. It manifests itself in a huge range of symptoms that impact not just those with Parkinson’s, but the families and friends around them as well. There is no cure – yet. But, by funding research, advocacy and treatment care, we come closer to a cure every day. At Cardiff Life, we’re on a mission to raise awareness, advocate for change and champion the incredible charities and services that contribute excellent research and care to the Parkinson’s community. 

Credit: Parkinson’s UK Cymru

We spoke with Parkinson’s UK Cymru, an incredible organisation that advocates for awareness and education surrounding Parkinson’s, as well as providing life-changing services and support to those who live with Parkinson’s, alongside their family, friends and carers. Their strategy focuses on four areas: pushing for excellent health and care; building a community of support; getting new treatments faster and becoming fit for the future. In addition to support groups, advocacy, fundraising and collaboration with health boards to improve services, Parkinson’s Cymru provides a free, confidential helpline in addition to local advisors who can guide you through every aspect of Parkinson’s. This includes financial support, employment issues, help for caring for someone with Parkinson’s and advice on how to deal with the day-to-day impact. 

Credit: Parkinson’s UK in Wales

Raising awareness and promoting education about the condition is crucial, so Parkinson’s Cymru shared one of the biggest misconceptions about Parkinson’s: “The biggest misconception is that Parkinson’s only affects movement,” says Rachel Williams. “Many people will recognise the tremor associated with Parkinson’s as well as stiffness and slowness. However, there are more than 40 recognised symptoms of Parkinson’s including both motor and non-motor symptoms. Another misconception is that it only affects ‘old’ people.” That’s one of Parkinson’s Cymru’s biggest pushes – raising the understanding that Parkinson’s can affect anyone, young or old. More than 1 million people in the UK are affected, either by living with Parkinson’s or as a friend, colleague or family member of someone who is. One thing is made incredibly clear: while living with Parkinson’s is challenging, one thing stands out: you are not alone. 

After his diagnosis in 2013 and being told he had “a good 2-3 years”, Ken Howard has refused to yield to Parkinson’s and defies expectations by having completed tandem skydives, abseiling down buildings and constantly striving to progress the vital research surrounding the condition. “Parkinson’s is not just a diseased, old, bent-over man, shuffling along… it goes way beyond that.” Says Ken. “In my head, I’m still the same person as I was before my diagnosis… Please talk to me as you would any other adult!”

Credit: Parkinson’s UK

Now 77, he continues to fight Parkinson’s and defy the original timeframe that he was given. With the help of Parkinson’s Cymru, Ken says that “during the 10-11 years since my diagnosis, I’ve been fortunate to meet, and become firm friends with, a bunch of genuine, caring and honest people. It opened my eyes to the different ways everyone is affected by and reacts to, the condition… It is an honour to work with them, knowing how many lives they have enriched.”

Although Parkinson’s Awareness Month spans the entirety of April, Parkinson’s UK also celebrates World Parkinson’s Day on the 11th of April every year. It’s an opportunity to support the community and bring to light the voices of those who are affected, in addition to organising fundraising opportunities for all those who are affected by Parkinson’s or those who want to make a difference.


For more information about Parkinson’s, including day-to-day advice, helplines, support groups and fundraising initiatives, visit https://www.parkinsons.org.uk/about-us/parkinsons-uk-cymru

Author WCS

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