Wellbeing when you are living with Parkinson’s

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In her latest blog for us, Beth Britton writes about how to achieve wellbeing when you’re living with Parkinson’s and talks to Matt Eagles, who is living with Parkinson’s, to find out his thoughts.

One of the elements that struck me when I first discovered BelleVie is the focus on wellbeing in their services. It’s at the heart of everything BelleVie stands for, but as I know from my wider work it’s often difficult to pinpoint ways to achieve wellbeing on a daily basis, especially for people living with long-term health conditions like many of the people BelleVie support.

 

Introducing the Five Ways to Wellbeing

To this end, I’ve grown to know and love the Five Ways to Wellbeing. They are evidence-based, created as a result of extensive research, highly effective, and proven to enhance not just a person’s wellbeing but their mental and physical health too. The Five Ways to Wellbeing encourage us all to:

  • Connect
  • Take Notice
  • Be Active
  • Keep Learning
  • Give

All of that sounds simple enough, and I’ve trained many social care staff in the practical application of the Five Ways to Wellbeing to help the people they support, but if you’re living with a long-term health condition do the Five Ways to Wellbeing genuinely help you, and if so, how?

 

Parkinson’s and wellbeing

In attempting to answer these questions, and with Parkinson’s Awareness Week as my inspiration, I asked a colleague and friend of mine, Matt Eagles – who has lived with Parkinson’s since he was seven years old – what he thinks of the Five Ways to Wellbeing. Matt said:

“I genuinely believe the Five Ways to Wellbeing are fabulous, critical to longevity, quality of life, and particularly suitable to people with Parkinson’s and their mental wellbeing. The truth is people with Parkinson’s often need to be persuaded to act positively by a loved one or carer. I know I’ve needed it many times. There are moments when you have to sit down and rest, but people with Parkinson’s should try and do things when they are able or loneliness and isolation can easily become a big problem, especially if a person lives alone.”

 

Implementing the Five Ways to Wellbeing

I asked Matt how he incorporates the Five Ways to Wellbeing into his daily life. He said:

  • Connect: “I use social media a lot and video call friends often. I also try to get out and about as much as possible, to meet friends or see colleagues in the office.”
  • Take notice: “I try and be aware of what’s happening around me when I’m out and about, and at home I can spot a lot from just sitting by the window for a few minutes.”
  • Be active (‘Physical Fun’ is the focus of Parkinson’s Awareness Week 2022): “The more active I am, the better I feel. I’d recommend dance classes or singing – they can be done whilst sitting or standing, no excuses! Boxing, table tennis, swimming, walking football or even just some simple stretches at home. The most important thing is to keep moving.”
  • Keep learning: “I set small tasks for myself that are achievable and within easy reach, and reward myself for completing them.”
  • Give:People with Parkinson’s often feel that all they do is consume help from others. I would suggest there are things people with Parkinson’s can give back. It might not seem like much but a smile, a kind word, a thank you for helping me is all you need.”

 

Wellbeing challenges for people with Parkinson’s

I asked Matt what he thinks the biggest challenge is for people living with Parkinson’s who want to implement the Five Ways to Wellbeing. He said:

“Connecting with others and staying in contact is one of the hardest things to do for many people with Parkinson’s, especially verbally connecting if their speech is affected. They may suffer from facial masking which is so tough because you can look emotionless. I found it devastating when I had problems with my voice and I couldn’t communicate how I wanted to. The thought of not being able to communicate so people could understand made me feel very isolated and lost and led to me self-harming sadly.”

Matt’s message for anyone with Parkinson’s:

“For me, Parkinson’s is not a death sentence. It’s a reminder to live your best life every day.”

My thanks to Matt Eagles for his time and invaluable insights into living with Parkinson’s. Find out more about Matt’s life with Parkinson’s by watching his film: Living with Parkinson’s, Matt Eagles

 

About the author:

beth-britton

Beth Britton is an award-winning content creator, consultant, trainer, mentor, campaigner and speaker who is an expert in ageing, health and social care https://www.bethbritton.com.