Let’s talk about Parkinson’s
She is one of our best-loved actors, cake makers and authors but she also a passionate President of Parkinson’s UK and urges Let’s Talk readers to support the vital work of this charity. Derek James spoke to Jane Asher.
Just consider this fact for a moment. Every hour, someone in this country will be told they have Parkinson’s. A condition that for which at the moment there is no cure. That’s one person in every 500, and amounts to 127,000 people in the UK. Some of you reading this may be living with Parkinson’s or know of someone who has this cruel condition which affects people in different ways. The three main symptoms are tremor, muscle stiffness and slowness of movement.
But the message from this story is a positive one – and it comes from the President of Parkinson’s UK, one of our most accomplished actors and a woman who has been in the spotlight for 60 years, Jane Asher. Currently starring and travelling the country in a stage production of the award-winning and moving book Moon Tiger, she took time to talk about Parkinson’s UK, the awareness week in April, and how important it is for us all to support the charity and its vital work.
“Parkinson’s is such a horrible condition and it is vital that we do what we can to care for people living with it,” said Jane, who knows what she is talking about and is not just a figurehead for the charity.
“Yes, I have personal experience. Several years ago now my brother-in-law was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and he discovered Parkinson’s UK so I first began supporting the charity for personal reasons,” she explained.
First she was delighted to be able to support what they were doing and then, about seven years ago, she was proud when asked to become President of Parkinson’s UK. A real honour. “Since first getting involved I was so impressed with what they do and I was so pleased to be able to work with them and raise their profile,” added Jane. “We do everything we can to help and support people living with the condition but we spread awareness of this debilitating and distressing condition,” she said.
Jane agreed that we know more about Parkinson’s than ever before. “We used to see and hear about people with a bit of a shake and then, if the symptoms got worse, they would disappear – stay indoors. That’s the way it was,” said Jane.
In the 21st Century times have changed. There is more hope and treatment for people with Parkinson’s but there is still a long way to go. “I can assure you that every penny raised for Parkinson’s UK is put to good use and it is so important we raise the money needed to continue the good research work going on and to continue to improve the care and treatment of those with the condition,” she added.
Her message to the readers of Let’s Talk across the Eastern Counties. “Please think of us. We need your help and if you can get involved with the awareness week in any way that will be wonderful. Thank you.”
Jane Asher was born in 1946, the daughter of Richard and Margaret Asher, her father was a consultant, broadcaster and author of medical articles; her mother was a professor at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.
Her brother Peter was “Peter” of 1960s hit makers Peter and Gordon and is now a record producer.
Jane was a child actress, appearing in the 1952 film Mandy, and has been entertaining us in the movies, on television and on the stage ever since. She also runs a successful cake business and is a successful author.
In the Sixties she was engaged to Beatle Paul McCartney. She met the illustrator Gerald Scarfe in the ‘70s. They married and have three children.
She is receiving rave reviews for her starring role in the stage version of Moon Tiger, Penelope Lively’s award winning novel of loss and desire. It is heading for the West End soon.
Parkinson’s Awareness Week is an annual campaign organised by Parkinson’s UK. It runs from April 7 to 13 and aims to change the way the condition is viewed by both the public and health professionals.
What is Parkinson’s? It is a progressive neurological condition, for which there is currently no cure. The three main symptoms are tremor, muscle stiffness and slowness of movement. But not everyone will experience all of these. As well as the symptoms that affect movement, people with Parkinson’s can find that other issues, such as tiredness, pain, depression and constipation, can have an impact on their day-to-day lives.
The charity As the UK’s Parkinson’s support and research charity, it is leading the work to find a cure, and is closer than ever. Their work is totally dependent on donations. It brings people with Parkinson’s, their carers and families together via a network of local groups, the website is at www.parkinsons.org.uk or call 0808 800 0303. This is a free confidential helpline open from 9am to 8pm, Monday to Friday and Saturday from 10am to 2pm. You can join Parkinson’s UK in lots of different ways: take on a fundraising challenge, like a 10k run or trek, support one of the campaigns for better services for people with Parkinson’s or support one of the 350 groups. No-one has to face Parkinson’s alone.
Three ways to get involved during awareness week
Display the Parkinson’s Awareness Week materials (you can order free of charge via the website or phone number) in the local community.
Hold an information stall.
Organise a Party for Parkinson’s – a simple, fun way to raise money. This year’s fundraising focus is on the information and support workers, a vital service helping people with Parkinson’s take back control.
Parkinson’s UK says it will publish findings of a new survey which reveals thousands of people with Parkinson’s are being denied access to vital medication when in hospital. This follows on from research last year which showed that over-65s with Parkinson’s are three time more likely to have an unplanned admission to hospital that other over 65s.
The campaign will seek to help put people with Parkinson’s back in control of their condition by encouraging the public to take action and arm themselves with basic information about what it is like to live with the condition.
In 1969 Mali Jenkins founded the Parkinson’s Disease Society – now Parkinson’s UK. Her sister Sarah had the condition and she couldn’t find any patient associations. The first meeting took place at Westminster Hospital – 16 people attended.