Parkinson’s and Depression

For people with Parkinson’s, depression is quite common and disabling—and it is the symptom most often overlooked. Up to 60 percent of people with Parkinson’s experience mild or moderate depressive symptoms. In fact, research suggests that the disease itself causes chemical changes in the brain that may lead to depression.

Parkinson’s affects many parts of the brain that are important in controlling mood. One of these is the area that produces serotonin, a brain chemical implicated in depression. Another part of the brain important in regulating mood—the frontal lobe—is known to be under-active in Parkinson’s. Commonly prescribed antidepressants can help. In addition to medications, cognitive-behavioral therapy has also been shown to help some people with Parkinson’s.

Other researchers have found that people with Parkinson’s who were depressed had more trouble with daily activities, and were more likely to begin medication for motor symptoms sooner than those without depressive symptoms. Depression decreased their quality of life and made their motor symptoms worse—but treating the depression, rather than the motor symptoms, improved both quality of life and movement. If you feel you are doing very poorly, yet your doctor finds only mild physical impairments during your exam, you may be depressed. Depression can range from feelings of sadness and discouragement to extreme hopelessness. These feelings generally are different from the grief and frustration you may feel as a result of your diagnosis.

Excerpt from the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation website

Help support Parkinson’s research by donating or buying a ticket to Shake It up For Parkinson’s – a fundraiser that is taking place in Toronto, Canada on September 6, 2013.

*Don’t miss a special evening with rock legend Tom Cochrane in support of the Morton & Gloria Shulman Movement Disorders Centre at the Toronto Western Hospital. Set in the fabulous Capital Event Theatre, the event will include an open bar, great food, a silent auction and amazing entertainment. 


Experiencing Parkinson’s from a Family Member’s Perspective.

I’m not a doctor. I don’t even like science.

I don’t understand what causes Parkinson’s but I know both my parents have it.

Here are some of my observations about the disease.

1. The most noticeable symptom is a shaking in the hand and/or arm.

2. Over time my parent’s balance has deteriorated. The risk of falling will increase over time and we need to be mindful of ice and other slippery conditions. Climbing stairs can be a problem especially if there is no handrail.

3. Parkinson’s causing facial masking which means there is less facial expression. I have learned that this does not mean my parents are any less emotional. It just means their face muscles are not working as well.

4. Parkinson’s has caused my mom to speak very quietly. She needs speech therapy. I have had to learn to talk to her in a more quiet environment which may mean turning off the radio or the TV.

5. It takes longer for my mom to translate a thought into speech. I know she has something to say; I just takes her longer to say it. I have had to learn to be more patient. I know the same thing will happen with physical movements. It will start taking her longer and longer for her brain to convince her legs to move.

6. It is increasingly difficult for my mom to swallow. This is a problem because she takes a lot of pills every day. She has to learn how to swallow property; otherwise, food will go into her lungs instead of her stomach causing pneumonia.

7. Parkinson’s is a degenerative disease. At the moment there is no cure. But one can slow the progress by doing things like exercise – tai chi and golf are good – and eating a proper diet. Both my parents have lived with Parkinson’s for a long time. Luckily, it has progressed relatively slowly.

I understand that with additional research a cure for Parkinson’s is not far off. That is why I am supporting the Shake it Up for Parkinson’s fundraiser that is taking place at the Capital Event Theater in Toronto on September 6, 2013.

Doug MacLeod, MacLeod Law Firm

To make a donation or buy ticket to

Parkinson’s and Discrimination

Tremors or shaking that cannot be controlled is a major symptom of Parkinson’s disease. Modifications to language, speed and facial expressions are also common. With the decrease of mobility and independence, depression is a side effect often observed in those suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

The struggle is hard not only for the individual with Parkinson’s but for their family and friends as well. Over and above the disease itself, its side effects and its impact on lifestyle and family and friends, Parkinson’s sufferers often have to deal with discrimination as well.

Shaking, slurring speech and slowness are symptoms that often cause Parkinson’s disease sufferers to be mistaken for intoxicated individuals. Examples of this kind of discrimination include when a Parkinson’s sufferer is yelled at in public, is refused service and even is arrested for being drunk and disorderly.

Simple activities that most of us take for granted, such as buying groceries at the supermarket or attending a restaurant for dinner with friends, are often more difficult for Parkinson’s sufferers with decreased mobility and physical impairments. However, participating in such outdoor and social activities often bring joy and happiness and ease loneliness. Parkinson’s sufferers should be encouraged and assisted in enjoying the same freedoms as healthy individuals.

Feeling isolated, uncomfortable and/or nervous in public is not conducive to alleviating the everyday stress and struggles of Parkinson’s sufferers. Public drunkenness is not only illegal in Canada, it can also be very embarrassing- not a quality anyone wants falsely assume.   

People should look and investigate carefully before pointing fingers. Making Parkinson’s sufferers more self-conscious is not helpful when it comes to promoting a positive attitude. If the public were more educated and aware of how serious the disease is, what exactly the symptoms are and how prevalent they are, it may do a lot to reduce these kinds of hurtful mistakes. 

Why We Are Supporting the Morton & Gloria Shulman Movement Disorders Centre

Shake It Up for Parkinson’s is an evening devoted to supporting research into and treatment for Parkinson’s disease.  The proceeds from this event will go to the Morton & Gloria Shulman Movement Disorders Centre at The Toronto Western Hospital.  The Centre conducts cutting-edge research into Parkinson’s at the same time as developing novel therapies to treat the disease.  Please consider supporting the Centre through this special event.

The Morton & Gloria Shulman Movement Disorders Centre is a world-class hospital centre.  It is run by one of Canada’s foremost scientists, Dr. Anthony Lang.  A clinician, professor and researcher, Dr. Lang is a world leader in neurology.  As a patient, I know firsthand the awe in which he is held by fellow neurologists and patients alike.  In a recent article by Julie Enfield in Zoomer magazine (“Brain Reinterpreted,” May 2013), Dr. Lang was singled out for his compassion and dedication.  The author noted that Dr. Lang was “working on a large number of important studies trying to address the critical question[s] of what causes Parkinson’s disease, how we can diagnose it more accurately, especially at the earliest stages, and what can we do to stop its inexorable progression.”  Dr. Lang explained: “These studies involve collaborators who are doing research techniques including molecular biology, neurophysiology, family and population studies, brain imaging, drug development and others…”  The Centre is clearly carrying on critical work concerning Parkinson’s and other movement disorders.

There are many worthy causes to support.  The Morton & Gloria Shulman Movement Disorders Centre is certainly one of them.  Few hospital centres can boast of the status, number of patients, quality of care, and depth and breadth of research of this Centre.  Please support the Centre by contributing to Shake It Up for Parkinson’s.  You can do so by purchasing a ticket to the event, making  a donation, or even becoming a sponsor.

*Don’t miss a special evening with rock legend Tom Cochrane in support of the Morton & Gloria Shulman Movement Disorders Centre at the Toronto Western Hospital. Set in the fabulous Capital Event Theatre, the event will include an open bar, great food, a silent auction and amazing entertainment. 

The Fox Trial Finder

Under-enrollment is one of the most significant problems facing Parkinson’s drug development, according to the Fox Trial Finder website. Eighty per cent of Parkinson’s clinical trials fail to recruit enough volunteers within planned timelines, forcing studies to finish late or never really get started.

Such a discouraging statistic could have been a driving force behind the Fox Trial Finder, a tool developed by experts that matches up trial teams with those that want to participate.

Launched in April 2012 by the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, the Fox Trial Finder aims to streamline the flow of participants into studies and speed profess toward therapeutic breakthroughs.

The Fox Trial Finder starts with volunteers using an online form to fill out information about themselves while trial teams simultaneously share information about their needs. The Fox Trial Finder compares the information and identifies potential matches. Both volunteers and trial teams can access updated lists of new trials and new volunteers respectively. They can trade messages and learn more about the trial and the volunteer.

Seventy per cent of Fox Trial Finder volunteers are Parkinson’s patients and the rest are healthy volunteers. As someone who does not suffer from Parkinson’s, you can still participate and make a difference.

The Fox Trial Finder’s website asserts that it “opens the door to your opportunity to make a priceless contribution”, because by participating in research, you give something money can’t buy.

This is a good lesson for anyone out there who may hesitate at the opportunity to contribute to a cause they believe in, due to a lack of disposable income. Volunteering your time can be rewarding and in the case of Parkinson’s research, your time may be more valuable than your money.

Thanks for reading,
Ian M. Hull

*Don’t miss a special evening with rock legend Tom Cochrane in support of the Morton & Gloria Shulman Movement Disorders Centre at the Toronto Western Hospital. Set in the fabulous Capital Event Theatre, the event will include an open bar, great food, a silent auction and amazing entertainment. 

Caring for Someone With Parkinson’s

Considerable amounts of energy and money are expended each year researching the causes of Parkinson’s disease and how best to treat it.  It is surprising, therefore, that very few studies have been undertaken on how living with someone who has Parkinson’s affects the primary caregiver.  As one 2012 Australian study notes, “little is known about health-related quality of life in people with Parkinson’s disease and their caregivers…or of the level of strain experienced by family caregivers of people with Parkinson’s disease.” This is especially shocking considering how much money is spent on informal caregivers.  In Australia $30 billion is spent annually and in the United States that figure is estimated to be as high as $375 billion.[1]

Caring for someone with Parkinson’s disease is complex and time-intensive.  As Cotton P. Heisters notes in Nursing Times, caring for someone with Parkinson’s disease requires “a high level of autonomy, clinical judgement, discretion and decision-making…”  The enormity of the task can place strain on care-givers and family members.  As the 2012 Australian study documents, “People providing care for others with advanced PD [Parkinson’s disease] have demonstrated an increased incidence of depression, diminished quality of life, reduced economic circumstances and reduced physical and mental health.”  Research has shown a correlation between the quality of life experienced by the person with Parkinson’s disease and their care-giver: the more sever the Parkinson’s, the lower the quality of life for both. 

Interestingly, this relationship seems to work both ways.  When steps are taken to ameliorate the quality of life for the care-giver, the patient’s quality of life, curiously, can improve as well.  If you know someone who is suffering from Parkinson’s disease, understand that helping their care-giver, either by assuming some of the responsibility for caring for them or by other means, can not only improve the care-giver’s quality of life, but also the patient’s.

Thank you for reading,
Ian Hull


Kelly et al. BMC Neurology 2012, 12:57


The Main Event…

 Approximately 100,000 Canadians suffer from Parkinson’s but the disease affects many more because of its profound consequences for relatives of those with Parkinson’s.  In addition, incidence of Parkinson’s is expected to rise because it is primarily found in the elderly, and Canada’s population is rapidly aging. That is why it is so important to support research into the disease.  Please join us on Friday, September 6, 2013 for an evening in support of Parkinson’s research and treatment at the Capitol Event Theatre, located at 2492 Yonge Street, Toronto.  All proceeds from the event will be donated to the Morton & Gloria Shulman Movement Disorders Centre at the Toronto Western Hospital.  Led by Dr. Anthony Lang, the centre makes outstanding contributions to the field of Parkinson’s research.


The event will feature live performances by Tom Cochrane and Dala & Marc Jordan.  A prolific Canadian artist, Tom Cochrane authored such hits as “Lunatic Fringe” and “Life is a Highway,” both of which continue to receive airplay on popular radio stations.  Tom’s most recent single, “Just Like Ali,” is about his father, who suffered from Parkinson’s.  You can purchase the album on which the single appears here.  All proceeds from the song support Parkinson’s research.

Included in the price of the ticket are great food and an open bar.  A silent auction will also take place.  You can purchase your ticket here or make a donation here.  We hope to see you there!