Parkinson’s UK is calling for businesses and organisations across Scotland to make life better for people living with Parkinson’s. Today (Wednesday April 11th) is World Parkinsons Day.

The charity has found that a lack of awareness of the condition and its symptoms can make everyday activities such as shopping and dealing with public services difficult.

Parkinson’s has more than 40 symptoms and many are little known among the wider public. Almost two thirds of people (64%) identify having a tremor as the symptom most commonly associated with Parkinson’s. But tremor is not experienced by everyone - and more than 12,000 people with Parkinson's in Scotland frequently experience other symptoms too.

Problems with muscle stiffness, movement and sleep along with bladder and bowel issues are very common.  For many people., mental health issues, speech problems and difficulties with swallowing and saliva are a big part of their condition.

Annie Macleod, Director of Parkinson’s UK in Scotland, says: “Parkinson’s symptoms can affect every aspect of a person’s life. From mobility and balance, to bladder and bowel and communication combined with mental health symptoms and dementia, Parkinson's can cause major challenges. The lack of public awareness of how these difficult symptoms can affect daily living can prevent people going out and engaging in their communities, and that leads to even greater isolation and loneliness.

"Living with Parkinson’s is not easy but it can be made much better if there is wider understanding and awareness of what having Parkinson’s means.”

That’s why Parkinson’s UK is calling for all Scotland's employers to take advantage of a short free online video awareness training package developed by the charity to inform their staff about the condition. The aim is to improve the experiences of customers who have Parkinson's.
The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service have been involved in developing the training and ensures that all staff take part. The service is also an enthusiastic advocate of awareness training and wants others to follow in its footsteps.
Assistant Chief Officer David McGown is the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service’s Director of Prevention and Protection.

He said: “We are delighted to have been involved in the development of this training – it’s quick and easy to deliver and provides colleagues with a hugely invaluable insight into Parkinson’s that helps us shape and deliver services effectively and appropriately.

“It also serves to underline the potential which lies in true partnership working to make Scotland’s communities safer.

“This also follows the opening of the our Safe and Well House at the SFRS HQ in Cambuslang, where firefighters are trained to support vulnerable members of the community by helping them learn how to look out for signs of danger that could lead to slips and trips, while also identifying the needs of those living with dementia.
“I’d encourage all employers across Scotland to sign up for the free online video training.”
Jane Stevely from Kilwinning has been living with Parkinson’s for 14 years and says that the understanding and awareness of shop staff has shaped her shopping habits.

Jane says: “I was recently in a supermarket and was having a bad day –everything was slow, my legs felt weak and I was a shuffling a bit. It’s not easy and people do give you funny looks. I was struggling with opening a bag.

"Thankfully an assistant noticed and offered to help. Little things like that do make a big difference. At my local shop they know me and are aware that I struggle sometimes – cash handling can be difficult but the staff are watchful and I know I can trust them so can hand my purse to them.

"They always make sure I can see exactly what they are doing. It’s a big help when my hands are bad. Their great service means I always go back there.”

Janet Niven lives in Letham near Forfar and was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2014. Janet says: “Although I’ve almost no tremor I do experience depression, nightmares, and bowel problems.

"These symptoms are largely invisible to others but they can have a huge impact on my ability to do everyday tasks. Whether you’re down the high street or just going about your business it makes such a difference when the person dealing with you understands Parkinson’s.”

Annie Macleod concludes: “Our training is free and suitable for every employer. Let’s mark World Parkinson’s Day by taking a positive step to help staff make life better for people with Parkinson’s. We want staff across Scotland to encourage their employers to get involved too and put Scotland at the forefront of the global #uniteforparkinsons campaign.”
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