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Imagine living with Parkinson's disease

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Limited awareness of Parkinson's Limited awareness of Parkinson's

Imagine being arrested for not smiling at an event. Mark Worsfold who attended the recent London Olympics, last year was. Mr Worsfold, who has Parkinson's, was arrested whilst watching a cycling event as his lack of movement and facial expressions caused concern. He was accused of acting in a suspicious manner as he seemed not to be enjoying the event enough.

While an extreme example, Parkinson's UK knows many with Parkinson's experience misunderstandings and hostility because of a fundamental lack of awareness about the condition.

This year's Parkinson's Awareness Week campaign was Put yourself in my shoes and looked at the discrimination those with Parkinson's face. We conducted research that showed 41 per cent of people with the condition felt they had been discriminated against. It also showed one in five people living with Parkinson's have had their symptoms mistaken for drunkenness, while almost one in 10 (8 per cent) have experienced hostility or have been verbally abused whilst out in public because of their condition.

Despite affecting about one in 500 people in the UK, public knowledge about Parkinson's is woefully inadequate. Sadly, just under a quarter (23 per cent) of people with Parkinson's said they avoid going out at busy times of the day because they are wary of people's reactions to them.

Although celebrities such as Michael J Fox, Muhammad Ali and Bob Hoskins have helped place Parkinson's in the media spotlight, there is much more that needs to be done. All too often, people with Parkinson's tell us they are stared or tutted at, simply because their condition has left them struggling to get out the right change at the supermarket till.

This fundamental lack of understanding of Parkinson's can have a huge impact on the lives of those living with the condition.

For many with Parkinson's, nurses play a vital role in helping them manage the symptoms that affect everyday life and the medication that aims to alleviate these. But just as importantly, the strong partnerships that nurses build with patients means you can help others understand what life is like for people with Parkinson's.

Suma Surendranath, professional engagement and education manager, Parkinson's UK

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