This is excerpted from a talk given to the ADPA Iowa Chapter on June 12, 2020.
So after a good start in 2020, our lives changed literally overnight when The Corona Virus – or Covid-19, reared its ugly head in the US. In the middle of March, the country shut down, and we were left alone, isolated, rudderless. The gyms we went to, the physical therapists, stores, doctors offices, closed temporarily. We were quarantined to our homes for at least two weeks. No restaurants, no movies, no sports, no NOTHING!
As the weeks dragged on, 2 weeks became 4 weeks, then 2 months. we lost track of time. Our schedules were gone. I would wake up having no idea what day it was. After all, I did not need to go anywhere. We could not get together with our friends, even our new Parkinson’s friends, who we came to rely of for support. We started to notice our symptoms were getting worse and our meds were not as effective. Why?
One of the worst causes of stress for a Person with Parkinson’s is isolation
As you probably know, stress can greatly cause our PD symptoms to worsen. One of the worst causes of stress for a person with is isolation. When you go to your boxing, dance, tai chi, yoga for Parkinson’s classes, you develop a support system. These are the people who know how you feel and who you can talk to about your symptoms. They get you. When that is taken away from you, you lose that sense of belonging. You become isolated, which increases your stress levels. It can be a vicious cycle. According to Dr. Laurie Mischley people who feel isolated tend to have the worst outcomes for PD.
And then something happened. In April, classes started coming back to us through the magic of Zoom. Lectures, seminars, conferences flourished on the net. You could fill your days with all kinds of activities. Wow! I signed up for a course from Yale, through Coursera, for free. I signed up for Laurie Mischleys Parkinsons’ School. Soon I was on my computer for hours every day, taking yoga and boxing, cooking classes, watching educational videos. On and on. Then the excitement wore off, I stopped checking in on my classes. I was getting tired of being on the computer for hours on end. I was exhausted – mentally and physically. I had finished all of my rainy day projects. I was home with nothing to do again. Still
I started feeling isolated once more. I was home with Mr. Twitchy and we are doing ok. But it’s not the same as getting out. And we found that doing something we were not supposed to added to the experience of getting out.
To fight the feeling of isolation we started having impromptu illegal dinners in our backyards with small groups of friends. We were sure that our children, who did not approve of us breaking quarantine, were going to turn us in to the police. Yeah, our kids now wanted to be our parents, telling us what we could and could not do, UGH. Another thing I did was to start CALLING friends, on the telephone. So 1990’s. And it helped a lot. We are social beings, we need the human touch. Texting just doesn’t do it for those of us over a certain age.
Other things you can do:
- Play games on line with friends
- Read to grandchildren on line. Play hide and seek with them using iPads
- Video chat with friends over drinks
- Get out of the house and go for a walk.
Even going for a walk has been tough though the last few weeks. As if the virus was not enough, the murder of George Floyd and the resulting protests have put many of us over the edge. It is finally getting better, but we are shelled shocked. So many of us have given up the quarantine altogether and others have retreated even further. We don’t know how to cope with this and the stress keeps getting worse. And so do our symptoms.
Now, after almost 3 months of some level of quarantine, the restrictions are starting to lift. Hopefully the protests will be gone soon, too. Are you ready to go back to life as it was before? Will you be comfortable sitting in a restaurant? At a crowded movie theater? Will it ever be the same again? What we do know is that it is going to be harder for some more than others. It’s ok. We are all different.
Canada’s Double Bubble method
The concept is very simple. Rather than asking households to remain isolated, each household can choose one other household with which to interact. These pairs have to be exclusive, otherwise the experiment just doesn’t work. The idea is that households of friends or relatives can pair up, experience greater social interaction, and ease some of the tension the pandemic has brought out in all of us.
As long as the members of the households are strict about who they interact with, and only socialize with others in their own home or their “double bubble” partner home, the risk of a fast-moving coronavirus outbreak remains quite small. That is basically what we did with those impromptu dinners with the same people almost every time.
The strategy was pioneered in New Zealand, which now says it has NO active cases of Covid19, and has been tested in a number of European countries as well. It seems to work, and it’s a good strategy for countries that wish to roll back restrictions but don’t want a second wave of new COVID-19 cases to overwhelm the healthcare systems.
How can you, as a person with PD, can manage re-entry into a changed world?
How do you feel? Are you eager to get back to normal? Are you afraid of getting sick? Somewhere in between? Are you immune compromised? Only you can determine what will be comfortable for you.
Let’s look at two different scenarios. These are the extremes, so you may fit somewhere in between.
Fearful, and/or Immune compromised
- Talk to your Doctor or Therapist about how to proceed
- Start slowly
- Continue with online classes and support groups when available
- Eventually, go to a live class, if uncomfortable, go back to online classes until you are ready to try again
- If you are feeling isolated – meet one friend for coffee – if sitting outside at your local Starbucks is scary – sit in your backyard and keep your distance from each other
- Get outside, Go for a walk or bike ride. Keep your distance from people you don’t know
- Get checked for the virus periodically if feeling vulnerable
Do NOT close yourself off from the rest of the world and become socially isolated.
Ready to jump in
Go for it! You still need to maintain social distancing, wear a mask and wash your hands!
- Go shopping, go to the gym
- Go to a restaurant
- See a movie at a theater
- if you feel that you are overwhelmed, slow down. Remember to take care of your health first.
And most importantly, make sure to be tested regularly for the virus. If you are fearful, just knowing that you are negative will help a lot. And if you test positive, even without symptoms, go back to quarantine. If you feel sick, contact your doctor. This is not just the flu. You have to be treated.
We don’t know what the future is going to look like. For now, will masks be the latest fashion statement? Will we ever be comfortable again hugging and kissing our friends hello and goodbye? Shaking hands with strangers. Will there be spikes of Covid-19, especially after all of the protests and rioting that has been going on? Probably. Will you have to be quarantined again? Maybe, maybe not. But the good news is that you know what to do if it happens. Research into vaccines and cures are moving at warp speed, and the hope is that we will all be vaccinated and this threat will end. I just saw a headline that Israel expects to be able to make a billion doses of an effective vaccine for Covid-19 by next summer. But that is a year away. So just stay informed.
We will get through this together.