Living With Your Parents and Parkinson’s

Your Parkinson’s disease has you back under your parent’s roof.

You had no other option but that doesn’t mean you aren’t second-guessing your decision. It feels like you are a child again. Years of independence feel as though they have simply melted away. There is probably no aspect of PD more difficult than having to return “home” after spending many years away. However, this is not a moment of personal failure but one of necessity. Making it work may be challenging, but it can be done.

The greatest obstacle to successful transition back under your parents’ roof will be the natural tendency to fall into old behavior patterns. This applies to both you and your parents. After all, your interactions emerged and began to evolve the moment you drew your first breath. There is no one with whom you share a longer history or with whom you have the most deeply established relationship roles. Roles tend to define interactions and can be very resistant to modification even when circumstances change.

Think of roles as streams cutting their own channels. It is possible to move a stream from its channel but it requires considerable effort. Relax the effort and the stream tends to shift back to its original bed. However, over time, the stream may begin to cut a new bed and become stable in a new position. In similar fashion, assuming new roles or changing old ones requires effort. Until the new roles become stable, they may seem to shift back to the old channel. In time, however, the changes may become stable.

It is important to remember that parents tend to behave as parents even when their children have grown. Although you are likely to do your best to ensure interactions are as “adult” as possible, you may find you tend to respond in a manner more reminiscent of your adolescence. For some of us the same inter-relational themes of our first two decades of life have not been fully resolved. This means they have a tendency to emerge from time to time when we are with our parents.

You are likely to have become quite familiar with these inclinations but, in the past, managed them by controlling the amount and quality of interaction you had with your parents. For example, with the luxury of a separate home, you were able to control the amount of contact, most particularly direct observation of your private behavior. Following on the first point, you were able to act upon unsolicited parental advice and admonition by acknowledging you understood clearly. However, you acted upon these parental observations only if you found yourself already inclined to do so. Finally, you were able to manage disagreement and unpleasant interactions, again by managing the degree of contact.

When you must return “home”, it is important to be aware that you and your parents will have a tendency to put your behavior on autopilot. It is also very important that you have a frank discussion with your family about what they expect from you and what you expect from them. Many problems can be nipped early if there is an open line of communications. There will be friction but when it arises, talk directly about the situation and try to resolve it. If you find the situation is feeling “stuck,” it may be helpful to consult with a family therapist specializing in inter-generational transactions.

In future blogs, I hope to revisit the problem individuals with young-onset PD face when they must again rely on their parents and siblings.

Dr. Paul

NOTE: Dr. Paul Short is neither an agent nor employee of ADPA or any of its affiliate organizations. The views expressed in this blog are the opinions of Dr. Short and do not represent the opinions or endorsement of APDA. The information contained on this site is for your general information only and is not intended as, or a substitution for, medical advice. You should also be aware that the information on this site may not reflect the most current medical developments, nor is it provided in the course of a physician - patient relationship. You should always consult your physician or other qualified healthcare provider or expert with any questions or concerns you may have regarding a health or medical condition. You should never disregard professional medical advice, or delay in seeking it, because of something you have read on this site.


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