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Individuals who reported being lonely had a higher risk of PD. Loneliness can also be a common experience for people after they are diagnosed. Loneliness has been found to be a substantial psychosocial determinant of health. People with PD can feel lonely because their relationship with their partner has changed, their relationship with their kids have changed, they have a hard time talking about how they feel, their PD symptoms make it difficult to physically communicate, they feel disconnected from others around them, and so many more reasons. Let's discuss ways to address your loneliness.

Find your community

A few years back, a boxer at Empower Parkinson in Syracuse, NY told me "my family and friends are the most supportive people in the world but I still felt incredibly lonely because they weren't living the same experience as me." It wasn't until he joined Empower Parkinson that he truly felt understood. He was able to connect with people who shared similar experiences, make new friends, and redefine old relationships. Finding your people who understand what you are going through without even having to share your experience can help immensely. Your community does not have to be exercise based. There are support groups, fundraising events, educational events, and more in our area and online to help you find your tribe.

Schedule your plans strategically

When making plans to spend time with friends or family, schedule them around times that make sense for you. If you move better in the morning, make plans for the morning. If you talk better after you take your medication, wait to return phone calls until you take your medication. Try your best to schedule activities around when you function best so you can be fully present.

Make it a routine

Humans are creatures of habit. Having a long standing schedule to to see your friends or family every week, month, etc. helps keep you accountable and keeps you looking forward to something. It takes work to maintain relationships, and this is a great way to make sure that you get to see people you love as frequently as you would like to.

Reconnect with old hobbies

My big hobby is CrossFit and I would feel very lost and lonely if I physically could not do it anymore. Just because you are moving differently, it doesn't mean you need to give everything up! Everything can be adapted and changed to fit where you are. Think back to some recreational activities or hobbies that you loved doing, and work with an occupational therapist and physical therapist on ways to get back to those things!

Discover new hobbies

When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Lot's of people with PD find new hobbies throughout their diagnosis, like art, boxing, and cycling to name a few. Branch out and try to find new interests that help you get connected with others again. Maybe volunteering is your new jam? Or maybe joining a bookclub or pickle-ball team sounds more inviting? Either way, take this time to explore new interests. We are forever changing and dynamic people. Don't let Parkinson's get in the way of that.

Use your healthcare team

Talk with your team if you feel like you are sinking into a dark place, if you are noticing too many mood changes, or if you are struggling with any other mental health changes. Your health care team is also there to help offer advice and recommendations on ways you can be more integrated into your community.

A tip for care partners

If your loved one was recently diagnosed, or maybe they have been diagnosed for a while, loneliness takes a team to help. Try making suggestions of new activities, or just schedule them ahead of time. Sometimes asking open-ended questions like "what can I do to help" or "what would you like to do" can seem really daunting to answer.

Care partners can feel lonely too! When your role changes to a care partner, you can be easily lost in it all and your needs can fall to the wayside. You have to put your emotional and social needs first at times because you can only take care of people if you are taken care of.



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