Robert and Gloria Anderson of Masterton. PHOTO/ELI HILL

As part of Parkinson’s Awareness Week this week, reporter ELI HILL talked to Robert Anderson who has Parkinson’s and his wife Gloria about living with the disease.

Robert and Gloria Anderson were retired and living in New Plymouth when Robert began to display symptoms of Parkinson’s.

“What I found was playing golf, couldn’t hit the ball as far. I knew something was wrong,” Robert said.

“Of course, your shoulders get stiff, and that’s not such a good thing when you’re a golfer.”

His handwriting, once sprawling became smaller, he began to dribble quite badly, and he’d occasionally stumble on the carpet when walking down the corridor.

“We got the diagnosis and what they do is they put you on this medication, and if your symptoms improve, they say you must have Parkinson’s.

“We were happily settled in New Plymouth, retired, been on a trip to Canada, and would probably do some more tripping around.

“We thought oh well we’ll probably retire here and die here. But it wasn’t meant to be.”

Their son in Wellington said they should live closer to each other to give support and the couple ended up moving to Masterton.

Now, five to six years after the initial diagnosis, the couple are members of the “very active” Parkinson’s Wairarapa.

Robert had a few tips he’d learned through experience on how to cope with Parkinson’s.

“The first thing I’d say is find out what you can about it. Information is power. Accept Parkinson’s, it’s no good denying it. Take medication regularly, we have an alarm on the phone to remind us.”

Intellectual stimulation through reading, giving church services, as well as having good support from family, extended family, and friends all aided Parkinson’s management, he said.

One of the things that’s had a big advantage for Robert is “exercise, exercise, exercise”.

“Exercise is good because you’re exercising your body which complements your medication, but you’re also meeting people, when you come to a community you’ve got to go out and meet people.

Gloria said the couple do an exercise every day.

“We aqua jog, do Pilates, play golf, cycle, walk, tramp although they’re shorter ones than before. Manage the garden and the lawns.”

Gloria said Robert also has a regular visit to specialist every six months.

“They don’t like putting the medication up just for the sake of putting medication up it has to be a real decline, which is good because it makes you work, and exercise to keep it.

“We think the medical side of Parkinson’s is sensible,” Gloria said.

While Robert does have trouble getting dressed, particularly with buttons, getting in and out of bed, and has had to increase his medication, the couple said they still live a good life.

“I think it’s always important to remember that you’ve got Parkinson’s, Parkinson’s doesn’t have you. We just keep going.”

Contact Parkinson’s New Zealand on 0800 473 4636 [0800 4 PD INFO] or email info@parkinsons.org.nz.