Although Parkinsons Disease affects those who have it on a personal level, there are some common symptoms that are readily identifiable as Parkinsonian. The small steps and shuffling gait, the slowness of movement, and tremors are a few of the more apparent manifestations of PD. And as individual as those symptoms are, how we cope with them is peculiar to each of us.
The symptoms that manifest themselves in my particular case (especially when the meds aren’t living up to their therapeutic promise) are the typical PD shuffle, slowness of movement, right hand tremors, and lack of arm swing when I walk. And while I am not overly concerned about those symptoms when I am out and about, I am sometimes aware that people are watching me and wondering “what’s wrong with that guy?” I can sometimes sense their impatience with my slowness when they are stuck behind me when entering or leaving a store for instance. I have found a way that seems to negate those negative feelings and tilt those occasions more in my favor. I use a cane when out in public.
The cane does several things for me. While I am not worried about my balance and possible falls (fortunately I am fairly sure on my feet) the cane is a useful prop when I walk because it helps to keep my walking more rhythmic and natural, it keeps the hand tremors at bay by giving me something to hold onto, it gets my arm swinging when I walk, and it elicits just the right amount of concern and patience in those people I encounter along the way. I have found that when I am caneless people get annoyed with my slowness when I am in their way. However, with the cane at my side people are much more congenial and patient, holding doors open for me and smiling while they do.
And since I have opted to use a cane regularly, I feel like I should at least look good while doing so. That is why I have made a number of canes that I use on a regular basis that are very simple to rather extravagant. ( you can see many of them here The canes I use often invite comment from people who are suitably impressed by them. So I get to talk to people who would otherwise avoid me in irritation.
Don’t get me wrong. I would certainly prefer not to have to use a cane. But at least when I do I can feel better about myself and have others treat me better.