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I don't want to nag, so how do I encourage my person with Parkinson's without harping or nagging?

Remember that you and your loved one with Parkinson's are a team, and communication is vital. One very effective way to reduce the inclination to nag is to schedule weekly check-ins when you give each other permission to communicate your wants and needs. During these short sessions, ask your person with Parkinson's what worked and what didn't over the week. Then, tell them what did and didn't work for you. Finally, use this time to talk about frustrations, communication misses, and your goals or expectations for the week.

We tend to nag someone when we believe they should do something they either don't want to do or said they wanted to do but don't do. For example, maybe your person with Parkinson's knows they should exercise, but they don't like it. You also know it's an essential ingredient if they want to live well with Parkinson's, so you get frustrated that they aren't doing it, which causes you to ask them about it every day. This makes sense. You know it's good for them, and you want to support and encourage them to do it. However, it's also important to remember that they are in charge of their life and just because they have Parkinson's, it typically doesn't mean that they have lost their ability to make choices for themselves. You can communicate your concerns during your weekly check-ins, but then it's time to let go and give them the gift of captaining their own ship.

It is very difficult to determine where to draw the line between "tough love" and insensitivity. When the PD patient is constantly asking for help with chores he can easily do himself, it is natural to refuse to help, but PD patients can usually do most things for themselves. Will it be "baying" by helping too much? Will too much helping simply lead to increased dependence, converting the care partner to slave status?

Patience is essential, as well as giving your loved one with PD the appropriate amount of time to respond before repeating an instruction. Keep in mind that one of the central problems in Parkinson's disease (PD) is the difficulty of doing two things at the same time. People with PD lose their "automatic pilot," the part of the brain that allows us to do many complex tasks without thinking about them. Keep this in mind when encouraging or coaching. As one person with Parkinson' put it "my good hand does what it's supposed to do but my Parkinson hand has to be told what to do." 

There are two scenarios in which nagging is appropriate: safety and exercise. However, rather than refer to it as nagging - we think of it as encouragement or coaching. When it comes to keeping your loved one safe, it is ok to nag. 

There are also times when you have to choose your battles about what to nag about. For example, many PD patients tilt to one side and their head may go to the armrest of a chair while resting. While it looks uncomfortable, patients are generally not bothered. It likely will not help to continue to say, "Sit up straight," due to confusion. Or, remember to stay that way. As long as the person isn't bothered by their position and safe, it is ok to let them stay in the position. However, if they are in that position for a long period of time, offer to help them move to a more comfortable position, asking them first.

Keep in mind, nagging is demoralizing for the nagger and the one being nagged. The nagger feels ignored and the one being nagged feels misunderstood or morally weak, as if not trying hard enough. In most situations, it should be avoided.


The Davis Phinney Foundation. Page 24. I don't want to nag. So how do I encourage my person with Parkinson's without harping or nagging? Every Victory Counts for Care Partners. "Manual." Sixth Edition, 2021.

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