East of England: Charity reveals “intolerable” level of prejudice for Parkinson’s sufferers

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NEW research paints a bleak picture of the life of someone battling Parkinson’s disease, a charity has revealed today.

In the East of England a third of people with the degenerative illness have experienced discrimination because of their symptoms, including being shouted at for using a disabled parking space and being refused service in a supermarket.

The research from Parkinson’s UK has been released to coincide with Parkinson’s Awareness Week this week – a campaign the charity hopes will encourage society to dispel some of the lingering fallacies surrounding the condition.

There are 11,000 people living with Parkinson’s in the East of England – about one in 500 – but the charity says public understanding and acceptance of the illness is “woefully inadequate”.

In the region almost one in five people living with Parkinson’s (15%) have had their symptoms mistaken by the public for drunkenness, while about one in ten (8%) have experienced hostility or have been verbally abused while out in public because of their condition.

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More than a third (37%) of people living with Parkinson’s reported experiencing some form of discrimination or misunderstanding at least once a month and almost half (49%) of those with the condition feel uncomfortable or nervous when out in public.

Steve Ford, chief executive at Parkinson’s UK, said: “Our research confirms that far too many people with Parkinson’s are having to battle against intolerable levels of prejudice.

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“Life with Parkinson’s can be challenging enough, but when that is coupled with feeling scared to even go out in public for fear of freezing in a busy queue and being tutted or stared at – as over half people we spoke to do – life can feel incredibly cruel.

“Time and again people with Parkinson’s have to fight against the old stereotype that the condition is just a tremor. This basic 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 all because people have mistaken their speech or movement problems – a common symptom of the condition – for drunkenness.”

And almost six in ten living with Parkinson’s (57%) had been told they looked ‘too well’ to have the fluctuating neurological condition.

The charity is urging people to learn about the condition so they can put themselves in the shoes of sufferers.

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