In my last blog, I discussed the need to accommodate the demands of Parkinson's by employing the metaphor of learning to sail a body of water one cannot control. It is natural to ask why accommodation is necessary. After all, the first few years after diagnosis are often marked by a milder presentation of the disease that allows symptoms to be ignored. Most people would find little reason to accommodate a condition it is easier to just not think about.
Responding to life after diagnosis is a different experience for everyone. There are many avenues for coping and it is not fair to say that any one is better than another. I think, however, it is fair to say that the more rapidly one is able to accept the presence of the disease and to begin treating it as a fact of life, the more options remain open. In general, proactive responses to difficult circumstances are generally preferable to a reactive ones.
Take for instance, the issue of exercise. The research supporting the importance of exercise to optimal disease management is becoming compelling. A regular program of physical activity appears to be one of the best ways to ensure the highest possible quality of life for the longest possible time. The data suggest that if a newly diagnosed person is not already exercising, the time to begin doing so is immediately. This is a moment for accommodation to the demands of PD.
Delaying a program of physical activity sets a steeper incline a person with PD must later mount. Physical activity is a habit, as is its absence. The more time the habit of inactivity has to grow, the more ingrained it becomes. For a person with PD, this coincides with a greater expression of symptoms that may make starting an exercise program that much more difficult. The passage of time increases the risk that an individual might never begin the single most powerful response to the disease.
The incentive for beginning a program of physical activity is the potential for maximum accommodation to the demands of PD. This means that one must acknowledge that the condition is present, and that neurological change is destined to occur. Initiating and building upon a regular practice of physical activity is a proactive response to the disease. Proactive responses are the essence of accommodation.
Early on, it is easy not to think about the physical changes PD brings. As the years pass, it becomes impossible not to think about them. Early accommodation provides an individual with the greatest number of future options for living a high quality of life in the face of the diagnosis.