‘Parkinson’s can tear couples apart’


Author: Simge Eva DoganPublished: 23 May 2019

Parkinson's LifePrep: Parkinson's LifeCook: Parkinson's LifeServes:


From parenting with Parkinson’s to sharing a diagnosis with a partner, Parkinson’s campaigners Allison Toepperwein and Larry Gifford discuss the highs and lows of family life

“Being a mum is tough. I think that’s because I am doing it on my own,” says US blogger Allison Toepperwein.

Allison was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2014, five months after separating from her husband and moving into her father’s home with her nine-year-old daughter Emma.

“I had all of these factors in my life just spiralling out of control,” she recalls.

After receiving her Parkinson’s diagnosis from the doctor, Allison found herself asking “Who’s going to raise my baby?”

“Emma has a daddy and he’s involved and we co-parent, but nobody can raise your baby like you can,” she explains. “She’s been there through everything and she is learning things that I couldn’t possibly teach her any other way.”

Allison was joined by Canada-based broadcaster Larry Gifford – who was diagnosed with the condition two years ago – to discuss parenting with Parkinson’s on the Parkinson’s Life podcast. Larry also has a young child, his nine-year-old son called Henry, and says Parkinson’s can teach “valuable lessons” to family.

“It’s a family affair,” says Larry. “I guess I’m lucky because I have a wife (Rebecca) and she and I are co-parenting Henry.”

Larry explains that since his diagnosis, his role as a parent and a partner began to change: “The longer that I have Parkinson’s, it seems the less I can do or I’m capable of doing. [Rebecca] is taking up more and more of the work. She’s becoming more of a single parent, even though I’m there mostly emotionally and physically.”

Larry (left), Henry (centre) and Rebecca (right)

Larry (left), Henry (centre) and Rebecca (right)

“Has [Parkinson’s] drawn you closer?” Allison asks Larry. “Because a lot of times it does tear couples apart.”

“It certainly brought us together,” says Larry. “There’s a lot more intimate conversations, a lot more open discussions about what we’re thinking and feeling.”

“I am so jealous right now,” says Allison, “I’ve never had that. That’s beautiful.”

To hear the full conversation, listen to Parkinson’s Life podcast episode one available on iTunesSoundCloud and YouTube.

Read more:

How my husband’s Parkinson’s has ruined our sex life

Beating ‘burnout’: nine ways to stay positive when caring for your partner

Episode One of Parkinson’s Life podcast, “Parenting with Parkinson’s”, is available now on SoundCloud, iTunes and YouTube. Please rate and review the episode to help others find us – and if you have feedback, or ideas for future episodes, do get in touch at editor@parkinsonslife.eu to share your thoughts.

Go Back

Share this story


Related articles

CVT-301 Inhaler lead


Fast-acting inhalable levodopa produces positive results in clinical trial

Is inhalable levodopa for treating Parkinson’s one step closer?

NASA Astronaut Rich Clifford

Global update

“You’re superhuman up there”: Parkinson’s in space

Ex-astronaut Rich Clifford on why he decided to reveal his diagnosis


In my country

Tackling shame and loneliness in Italy

We speak to the founder of charity ParkinZone