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Fox and FAQs About Parkinson’s Disease

You may or may not know anyone who has Parkinson’s Disease (PD), but you have likely heard of a famous actor who received a PD diagnosis more than 30 years ago. Michael J. Fox was starring in the television show Family Ties, where he met and married his wife, Tracy Pollan, in 1988. His PD diagnosis came in 1991, and he remembers Tracy whispering to him, “In sickness and in health.”

Fox went on to star in the high-energy blockbuster movie, Back to the Future, which Damey and I enjoyed very much, but we were concerned about his health and the progression of Parkinson’s based on his action-packed performance and his inability to be still.

At this stage, the PD symptoms Fox was experiencing were mild, and he was able to manage the condition while continuing to work. However, over the course of time, the symptoms worsened, and he was forced to step out of the spotlight for several years, only making cameo appearances on other popular shows to stay relevant, bring more awareness to PD, as well as to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

Fox was diagnosed as a young man, and he has lived a full, albeit challenging life with PD, but in most cases, PD is a diagnosis received by seniors (mostly men) over the age of 60.

Because April is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month, I went in search of answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) about PD and found them from a familiar resource to me, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Q. What is Parkinson’s Disease (PD)?

A. Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder or disorder of the brain. It was first described by Dr. James Parkinson in 1817 in a paper titled “Essay on the Shaking Palsy.” The average age of onset for Parkinson’s disease is 60 years old, however, it can be seen in people much younger. It affects men slightly more than women and Caucasians more than people of color. As many as 1.5 million Americans are currently affected by PD. The cause of PD is still not clearly understood. There are many theories among scientists including genetic, environmental, and viral factors.

Q. What are the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease?

A. The most common symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include tremors at rest, rigidity (stiffness), bradykinesia (slowness of movement), and postural instability (lack of balance). Generally, at least two of these four symptoms must be present for a diagnosis of PD to be made. Parkinson’s disease is not limited to these four symptoms. Individuals with PD may also experience difficulty walking (shuffling or freezing), reduced facial expressions, small handwriting, soft and muffled speech, constipation, sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety, memory problems, difficulty swallowing, and reduced arm swing.

Q. How is Parkinson’s disease diagnosed?

A. Unlike many other disorders, medical tests and procedures cannot be used to diagnose PD. Diagnosis is almost always based on a clinician’s physical examination. Again, diagnosis is typically made if an individual experiences two of the four chief symptoms (resting tremor, stiffness, slowness of movement and/or poor balance).

Q. How is Parkinson’s Disease treated?

A. At this time, there is no known cure for Parkinson’s disease. Medications are the most useful form of treatment. These medications can be used in various combinations and typically provide good symptom management. Unfortunately, as PD progresses, complications of these medications become more likely and often very troublesome. Such complications can include dyskinesias (involuntary writhing movements of the body), hallucinations (seeing things that are not real), and motor fluctuations (wearing off of medications). Surgical procedures are also available and become a valuable option when the above medication complications are difficult to manage.

Q. Is Parkinson’s disease fatal?

A. Despite common misconceptions, Parkinson’s disease itself does not shorten one’s life expectancy. However, late-stage symptoms such as immobility, poor balance, and difficulty swallowing, place patients at a higher risk for fatal complications. These complications can include fractured hips, pneumonia, and choking.

Michael J. Fox has defied the odds for surviving PD, and that is evident in his new autobiographical movie called “Still” which begins streaming on Apple+ on May 12, 2023. In it, he is candid about his life with Parkinson’s disease as he shares an intimate portrait of his personal and professional struggles and triumphs over PD. The trailer is funny as well as fascinating, and Damey and I will definitely plan to see “Still”!

Please know that Home Helpers® is here to help seniors with Parkinson’s disease because seniors with PD require specialized care. Many of our exceptional caregivers are highly trained in Parkinson’s disease care, and they are prepared to help make life easier for the sufferer and their family.

If an experienced Home Helpers® caregiver can provide specialized care for your senior loved one suffering from Parkinson’s, we offer a FREE consultation to assess specific needs and create a customized care plan for you and your family. 330.892.9329

Home Helpers® Canton, OH, is Veteran-owned and operated. We are honored to have received the Home Care Pulse – Best of Home Care® Provider of Choice Award, the Shooting Star Award (2011), and multiple Platinum awards for the superior level of care we provide. We are Certified Senior Advisors and members of the Home Care Association of America, Alzheimer’s Association, and the International Franchise Association. In addition, we were ranked in the Top 500 Franchises by Entrepreneur Magazine in 2019.

Home Helpers® Canton proudly serves male and female seniors in Stark County, Portage County, and portions of Summit County including the communities of Akron, Alliance, Canton, East Sparta, Hartville, Jackson, Massillon, Navarre, North Canton, Randolph, and surrounding areas.


U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs