What Is Parkinson's Awareness Month 2021? Date, History + Activities

Updated

Certified Care Manager, Aging Life Care Professional, and National Master Guardian Emeritus

National Parkinson’s Awareness Month encourages people to participate in one or more events that support further research to bring about a cure for this neurological disorder. It is also a time to bring awareness to the disease to encourage more support services.

Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that is slowly progressing and causes tremors, gait, and balance issues. Other symptoms are limb stiffness or rigidity and slow muscle movement which causes balance problems.

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Each person responds differently to the disease with some people suffering serious complications like dementia, and others having mild to moderate symptoms. Problems with cognitive function, including forgetfulness and trouble with concentration, can occur for some people.

As the disease gets worse with time, many people develop dementia, which complicates care and treatment.

Parkinson’s Disease affects more than 1 million people in the U.S. and it is second only to Alzheimer’s disease for neurological disorders.  Continued support for people with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) relies on research, education, and awareness of the disorder.

What and When Is Parkinson’s Awareness Month?

Parkinson’s awareness month, like many other awareness months, is a time to educate and advocate for people who have Parkinson's disease. The designated month for Parkinson’s disease is April.

Many neurological disorders don’t have cures and rely on treatment and other support for continued research and development. Sometimes efforts at increasing awareness can get lost without a designated month to focus attention on sensitivity to the symptoms and needs of people with Parkinson’s. That is why a specific month can focus attention and efforts.

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What’s the History Behind Parkinson's Awareness Month?

In the 19th century, the English surgeon James Parkinson published an essay describing symptoms, leading to the development of Parkinson’s Disease as a term. Forty years later, James Parkinson’s writing got some attention. The 20th century involved research from scientists from all over the world. While treatments have improved, no cure has been found.  

Parkinson’s Disease gained more attention when Canadian actor Michael J. Fox was diagnosed in 1991. Michael Fox has been very open and honest about his PD which has significantly increased awareness and acceptance.

His diagnosis inspired him to start the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s research to help others learn about the disease and find ways of managing and treating this condition. 

Parkinson’s Awareness Month is part of the core work for institutions such as the Michael J. Fox Foundation. This month-long dedication encourages people to learn about the disease, donate to foundations to help with research, and support those who do have it in any way they can.

What Are the Colors, Symbols, or Hashtags for Parkinson's’ Awareness Month?

Symbols, colors, and hashtags draw attention to a specific month, which highlights the disease itself. Social media is a tool for sharing these colors, symbols, and hashtags.

There is lots of competition for research dollars, fundraising, and support for a variety of illnesses and conditions. It takes repeated exposure to a variety of visual cues to get people’s attention.

Symbols and color

Symbols and colors like the pink ribbon for breast cancer have become ubiquitous. National sports teams wear the pink ribbon at games to bring awareness to the devastation of breast cancer. This gives you some idea of the power of symbols and colors.

The red tulip is the official symbol within the Parkinson’s community. In 1980, J.W.S. Van der Wereld, a Dutch horticulturist who had Parkinson’s disease, created a red and white tulip. Van der Wereld named his flower, the ‘Dr. James Parkinson’ tulip, to honor the English apothecary surgeon who originally described Parkinson’s in 1812.

Parkinson’s Disease organizations around the world use the tulip as a symbol of hope and optimism and have variations of the symbol. The tulip unifies independent regional, national and worldwide organizations for people with Parkinson’s and their family and friends, neurologists, research scientists.

The Parkinson’s Disease Foundation (PDF) specifically uses a yellow tulip to denote optimism and hope. The three petals are used to promote the “symbol” of their three-pointed mission: Hope through research, education, and advocacy.

It more recently appears, however, that the yellow three-pronged tulip has been replaced by a blue ribbon design as the new brand for the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation.

The tulip has been adopted as a symbol by many Parkinson’s organizations around the world and over the years. Similarly, the European Parkinson’s Disease Association chose the tulip as the symbol for its logo in 1996.

Hashtags

A hashtag (#) is a label for similar content, helping others quickly find content on that same topic. Hashtags are used across all social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn. There are some common hashtags for Parkinson’s Disease.

The Parkinson’s Foundation asks during Parkinson’s Awareness month to use the hashtag, #StartAConversation when posting on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They also encourage you to use #Parkinsons and #ParkinsonsAwareness. Other hashtags include the following:

  • #parkinsonsdisease
  • #parkinsons
  • #parkinson
  • #parkinsonsfitness
  • #parkinsonswarrior
  • #parkinsondisease
  • #parkinsonspower
  • #parkinsonsawarenessmonth 
  • #parkinsonsresearch
  • #parkinsonssupport
  • #parkinsonsfoundation

What Activities Can You Do for Parkinson’s Awareness Month? 

There are so many valuable contributions that you can make to Parkinson’s Awareness Month. Even if you don’t have a lot of time, small efforts add up to help increase awareness and raise funds.

Spread the word

If you or a loved one has Parkinson’s Disease, sharing your story is a way to reduce stigma and increase awareness. From home, you can share information on social media and link back to the American Parkinson’s Disease Association, the Parkinson’s Foundation, and The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. Also, sharing symptoms of the disease may encourage others not to ignore signs and see a neurologist to be evaluated.

Donate

For Parkinson’s research to continue, funding is required. Encouraging others to donate during Parkinson’s Awareness Month can help during the month of April and onward.

Attend a fundraising or educational event

There are virtual educational events that you can access through the spring. Some moving day events are virtual and some may be in person.

Petition local and state officials to declare Parkinson’s Awareness Month

Go online to find out who to contact in your mayor or governor’s office to submit the request.  After you’ve submitted make sure you follow up by email or phone to ensure it was received. A declaration will go a long way to reaching everyone in your state about Parkinson’s Awareness Month.

Join blogs and forums

Whether you are a caregiver or a person with PD, reading blogs and participating in forums is a valuable way to exchange ideas on care, symptom management, and current research. There are many caregiver blogs out there, especially ones focused on caring for a patient with Parkinson’s. Isolation is not good for anyone and it can be easy to feel alone in the struggle against PD.

Reach out to someone with Parkinson’s Disease

Everyone is busy. You may know someone with PD but haven’t taken the time to acknowledge their struggle or known what to do. Parkinson’s Awareness Month is a good time to consider gifts for someone with PD or support for the caregiver. Once you have made the commitment consider keeping it going year-round.

Do your part to reduce stigma

As difficult as it may be, being honest with others about your experience with Parkinson’s Disease is one of the best ways to reduce stigma. The unfamiliarity of symptoms and behaviors can lead to isolation and shame. The more accustomed people become to the disease, the more accepting and willing they will be to participate in efforts to support you and your loved one.

Parkinson’s Awareness Month 

Parkinson’s Disease is challenging for the person that has it, their caregiver, and family. April is a good time to regroup and refocus your efforts in supporting the organizations and people with Parkinson’s Disease.


Sources:

  1. “Parkinson’s Foundation Unveils New Brand and Website.” Parkinson’s Foundation, 19 October 2017, www.parkinson.org/about-us/Press-Room/Press-Releases/new-brand-website
  2. “April is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month. Why does that matter?” American Parkinson Disease Association, www.apdaparkinson.org/article/dd-s20-article-4/
  3. “Events.” Parkinson’s Foundation, www.parkinson.org/get-involved/events?_ga=2.55887211.1988590114.1613659785-1609029870.1611777902
  4. “Parkinson’s Disease Statistics.” Parkinsons’s News Today, parkinsonsnewstoday.com/parkinsons-disease-statistics/

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