Holiday greetings from the Parkinson’s disease community

Interviews

Author: Sarah McGrathPublished: 22 December 2022

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Christine with her kids at preschool Christmas event in Peru

With Christmas around the corner, we share how some of our readers are celebrating the holidays and some of the advice they have for those managing the condition around this time


Christmas can be a joyful time, filled with goodwill, gift-giving and time with loved ones. Yet for people with Parkinson’s, the festive season may come with added pressures, such as challenges around navigating meals, accessing medical care or struggling with feelings of loneliness.

This year, we’ve invited members of the community to tell us about the traditions they continue to look forward to, and share their tips for making the season merry while living with the condition.

Man building snowman

Nikolas enjoying the snow in Athens earlier this year.

 Carols and other Christmas traditions

“The sea of candle lights rise and fall, again and again, occasionally punctuated by the crowd singing ‘Hallelujah!’ with each lift of our candles.”

Blogger and filmmaker Christine Jeyachandran is describing Carols by Candlelight, an outdoor show held annually in Australia and her favourite yuletide tradition. “The show consists of a variety of singers, celebrities and choirs singing old-fashioned Christmas songs,” she explains.

However, the experience isn’t without its challenges. “For a person with Parkinson’s to consider going, it’s quite the undertaking. With a mixture of walking and sitting down for periods of time, it is a long day for someone with the condition, so I’m prepared to take a little siesta in the park if needed.”

Nonetheless, Christine looks forward to the cherished activity every year: “It’s a tradition from my childhood – and my children love it too!”

Woman with grandchildren in Australia

Christine and her children at the candlelight event in Australia.

Spending time with friends and family is something that Nikolas Koukoulakis, a powerlifting coach based in Greece, also finds rewarding at this time of year. “I choose to spend the festive period with my loved ones,” he says.During the holidays I used to travel to different countries by myself. Now, with my freezing of gait, it’s difficult for me to do this.”

Both agree that getting involved with activities and connecting with others in the Parkinson’s community are key to making the most of the festive season. “Research has shown that those who are more active in the community do better with Parkinson’s,” says Christine. “So make sure you renew or find new traditions to get involved in the community this Christmas, in whatever shape or form that might be.”

Meanwhile, physical activity continues to be a priority for Nikolas around this time. He says: “After daily training, I spend some time in my infrared sauna – it’s ideal for the winter!”

Looking ahead to the New Year

From small, everyday aspirations to larger undertakings, New Year’s resolutions can help mark the start of a fresh year with intentional goals. Both Christine and Nikolas have their sights set on community-building objectives in 2023.

Nikolas’ resolution? “Visiting my daughter and granddaughter, who live in another country.” But his ambitions don’t end there: “Also, as a competitive powerlifter, I want to train hard in the New Year in order to participate in the Parkinson Games in the Netherlands.”

Christine, meanwhile, is planning a purpose-filled visit to Barcelona, Spain. “This is where the World Parkinson’s Congress will be held in July 2023. It’s the only research based meeting that welcomes everyone in the community.”

“It’s so impactful to be part of a professional community that is passionate about improving the lives of people with Parkinson’s,” she says.

Do you have any resolutions for 2023? Let us know in the comments.

Man lifting weights

Powerlifting coach Nikolas training for a competition in Athens.

Gift ideas for people with Parkinson’s

  • Trekking shoes: “These are ideal for walking on slippery ground,” explains Nikolas. “They also encourage exercise, which can support anyone with Parkinson’s.”
  • A yoga mat: “A perfect gift if you’re on a budget,” recommends Christine. Ideal for someone with the condition who would like to explore the potential benefits of yoga.
  • Your time: “Instead of sending a Christmas card, give an old friend a call,” suggests Christine. “This gift shows you really care.”

For more information on living well with Parkinson’s, visit the Parkinson’s Europe website.


Read more:

“I want to break the silence and stigma associated with Parkinson’s disease”

“We must prepare our brain and body to face all difficulties”

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