A survey by charity Parkinson’s UK has found that many patients have been affected by public ignorance about the condition.
A stereotyped image of Parkinson’s disease (PD) sufferers as elderly people with tremors has led to 20% of patients being misidentified as drunk.
Half of the patient group have experienced discrimination due to their movement and communication problems.
A famous historical example is the pulp magazine editor Farnsworth Wright, sacked and left to die in poverty despite the perfect clarity of his mind.
Boxer Muhammad Ali and actor Michael J. Fox, among others, have done much to raise public awareness of PD in recent years.
A progressive neurological condition, PD affects over 120,000 people in England, causing both uncontrollable tremors and difficulty with certain types of movement, including facial expressions.
A survey of more than 2,000 people with PD discovered that one in five had been mistaken for being drunk, while one in ten had experienced hostility or verbal abuse because of their condition.
Not surprisingly, over a third said they felt isolated when in public, while over half said they felt afraid. A shocking 10% reported discrimination at work.
One patient, Mark Worsfold, was arrested while watching a road race because his lack of expression (a common PD symptom) struck the police as ‘suspicious’.
Speech, language and facial expressions can also be affected.
Steve Ford, Chief Executive of Parkinson’s UK, said: “Misunderstanding has sentenced people with Parkinson’s to a life of hurtful comments, being refused service in shops and even being shouted at in the street.”