5 Tips for working and living well with Parkinson’s disease


Parkinson’s disease

Living with Parkinson’s disease can impact how you live and work, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop working before you’re ready. Most people who are working before their Parkinson’s diagnosis continue to work for some time.


Some people continue in the same role with accommodations to help manage changes in their needs and capabilities. Others decide to look for a new role that’s more suited to their current priorities.


It’s important to create a plan for managing your health and well being at work sooner rather than later. Having a strong support network around you can help you feel more in control and confident when challenges arise.


Here are 5 tips for working and living well with Parkinson’s disease:

1. Know your rights

Understanding your rights in the workplace means you can speak up for yourself if you need to. In Australia, it’s against the law for an employer to treat you differently or unfairly because of a health condition or disability. That includes firing you, refusing you a job interview or treating you differently to other employees because of your disability.


Employers are required to make reasonable adjustments to help you do your job properly and safely. Reasonable adjustments may include things like changing the work environment to make it more accessible, modifying your work equipment or adjusting your work schedule.


You don’t have to disclose to your employer about your condition or disability unless it affects your ability to perform the essential tasks of the job. If it does affect your ability to do your job, you’re legally required to disclose.


Even if you’re not required to disclose, in some cases talking to your boss about your health and needs may help you get the support you need at work. Deciding to disclose is a personal choice, and should be done with professional advice.

2. Ask for workplace modifications

Workplace modifications can help you better manage your symptoms and keep up with your job responsibilities. You and your employer may be eligible for funding to make particular workplace modifications.


Workplace adjustments are highly individual and based on your needs. They may include things like:


     Flexible work schedule

     Reduced hours

     Reassigning tasks that are difficult to someone else

     Having a car park closer to the front door

     Working from home

     Time off for medical appointments

     Ergonomic equipment

     Assistive technologies such as a hands-free phone


If you feel comfortable, you can approach your employer directly about workplace modifications. Or you can work with a disability employment support provider to access modifications that are right for you.

3. Access employment support

It can be challenging to navigate changes to your health and employment needs on your own. Getting support can help you feel more confident and alleviate some of the stress.


You may be eligible for employment support at no cost through programs such as Disability Employment Services. This program can help whether you need support to stay in your current role or want to find a new job.


A local provider will work one-on-one with you to create an employment plan, access the right services and reach your employment goals.


Through the Disability Employment Services program, you can get help with things like:


     Accessing accommodations

     Accessing funding and financial support

     Workplace assessments

     Finding suitable jobs for people with Parkinson’s disease

     Writing resumes and job applications

     Career planning


To access employment support services, speak to Centrelink. Or contact a provider in your area directly.


4. Eat well and exercise

Studies have shown that nutrition and exercise can help ease Parkinson’s symptoms and slow down the progression of the condition. Looking after your physical health can also have a positive impact on your mental well being and mood.


A diet rich in wholefoods, fruit, vegetables, lean proteins, beans and legumes can improve your overall health. Parkinson’s medications often lead to dehydration, which can make you feel fatigued. So it’s important to stay hydrated throughout the day. Stay away from foods high in sugar and caffeine as these can have a negative effect on your energy levels and sleep patterns.


Regular physical activity will improve your overall health, and can help with focus and concentration at work. To manage Parkinson’s symptoms, experts recommend a combination of balance and coordination exercises. Activities that get your heart pumping can also improve blood flow to the brain, and help with maintaining brain health.


Diet and exercise can have a large impact on your overall health and well being, and your ability to keep up with work. To ensure you’re eating and exercising in a beneficial way, it’s best to work with specialists like a dietician, physical therapist or occupational therapist.

5. Look after your mental health

Changes in your abilities and health can take a toll on your mental well being. Not being able to do as much as you used to or having to slow down at work can cause stress and anxiety.


Workplace stress can cause symptoms to flare up, so it’s important to manage your stress both at work and home. Take regular breaks during the work day and use relaxation techniques like deep breathing. Many people find meditation and mindfulness exercises to be beneficial.


If you’re finding it hard to cope, it’s important to get help sooner than later. Therapy can give you the tools and coping strategies to improve your mental health and deal with challenges that arise. Better mental well being can lead to better work performance too.

What does living well look like to you?

Everyone’s idea of living well and succeeding in life are different. Defining your own goals and priorities can help you decide where your next steps are.


Whether you’re keen to keep working, want to slow down or need a career change, it’s important to get help along the way. Feeling connected and supported can help you work towards your idea of living and working well with confidence.

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