Every year, around the world Parkinson’s disease turns thousands of 60-plus men and women into helpless, trembling invalids, completely dependent on their caregivers for their survival. Lately, the disease has been reported to strike much younger people too—those in their 40s and 50s
Although exact data is difficult to find, it is estimated that millions of older people in the country are in the grip of Parkinson’s. These senior citizens are hounded not only by its crippling symptoms but also by a number of social stigmas arising almost entirely from lack of awareness of the disease.
Medically speaking, Parkinson’s is a progressive disorder of the nervous system that severely impairs movement, speech, gait and balance, affecting nearly 1 in 100 people above the age of 60. The disease is caused by the loss of neurons that produce a chemical messenger (or, neurotransmitter) in your brain called dopamine. When dopamine levels decrease, it causes abnormal brain activity, leading to the onset of Parkinson’s disease.
However, in a country marked by widespread illiteracy where myths abound by the dozen, Parkinson’s is a subject of social scorn, adding to the agony of its patients. On the other end of the social spectrum, with an increasing number of India’s well educated people migrating to more lucrative markets abroad in search of rewarding careers, an ever growing number of aged people face the grim prospect of fending for themselves in their homes alone, which compounds their misery. Parkinson’s is a disease that requires intensive attention of care givers.
Likewise, the specialized medical services required to treat and support PD patients is simply not available in large parts of the country, leaving patients with little hope of help or even bare minimum quality of life. The irony is that over years, medical science has made rapid strides in the understanding of the disease resulting in a dramatic improvement in its treatment and management. PD is still incurable, but its patients need no longer live in hell.
As a country what we need is a large number of support groups like the basal ganglia support group associated with GIN to help PD patients access the kind of support they most certainly deserve to lead a life of basic dignity and comfort.