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Spalding-area MP talks about Parkinson's

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In his weekly Hayes in the House column, Sir John Hayes discusses Parkinson's disease...

The challenges faced by those with neurological conditions are frequently misunderstood and often unappreciated. Their cause is dear to my heart and for more than 20 years I have worked, alongside committed campaigners, to enact significant changes for sufferers and their families.

With the key recommendations of the Acquired Brain Injury Bill I sponsored being adopted by the Government, it is time to shine a light on the fastest growing neurological condition in the world – Parkinson’s disease.

Sir John Hayes (56272599)
Sir John Hayes (56272599)

Monday, April 11 was World Parkinson’s Day – a time to renew our collective determination to stand by the 145,000 people in the UK with Parkinson’s and the thousands more who love and care for them. There are at least 310 people in South Holland & The Deepings with Parkinson’s, and, as president of Spalding’s Parkinson’s UK branch, I have had the privilege to know some of these inspiring individuals, their families, and friends. Most importantly, this direct local connection has helped me to understand.

“Let’s talk about Parkinson’s” was chosen by the Parkinson’s community as they appreciate, better than anyone, that limited appreciation of the severity of their condition is one of the biggest barriers to getting the right support for them and their carers.

Physically and mentally, Parkinson’s is all-encompassing, with the condition altering so many aspects of daily life.

Whilst most people are familiar with the tremors, speech and mobility issues, many will not know that there are over 40 symptoms of this debilitating neurological disorder. Symptoms which limit life chances, turning everyday tasks into challenges.

The disease affects each person particularly, but with 40% of sufferer’s experiencing depression, and 31% facing anxiety, this complex condition must be made a priority.

As with many neurological disorders, the reality of Parkinson’s can only be truly appreciated by listening to the stories of those who experience it. With this in mind, last month I attended a Parliamentary session held by Parkinson’s UK to hear from those directly affected. The inspiring people I met lived up to the spirit of this year’s World Parkinson’s Day, as they talked freely of their condition. Listening to such first-hand testimonies was moving and motivating. As two more people are diagnosed with Parkinson’s every hour, time is of the essence if we are to ensure that they can live their lives with dignity. What I heard about sufferers’ difficulties was a stark reminder of how much more there is to do. Treatments for Parkinson’s are limited and there is no cure. Nevertheless, effective personal healthcare exists, and modern medicine can give those with the illness a quality of life unimagined in decades past. The pandemic has stalled this progress, as referrals and treatments have been delayed or cancelled. Moreover, the isolation which some have endured is especially difficult for those already coping with Parkinson’s; making the work of Parkinson’s UK and its branches, which allow problems to be shared, help focussed, and spirits raised, more important than ever.

As our nation recovers from the events of the last two years, our aim should not merely be a return to the status quo - for we can be better and do better.

It is essential that we ‘talk about Parkinson’s’ - ensuring each of us take time to increase our understanding and support. With thousands of local people knowing, or having known, someone with Parkinson’s, learning a little more about the condition and how to help would make a huge difference to sufferers and those that love them.

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