Celebrities with Parkinson’s Disease: A Three-Part Series

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that impairs motor skills and speech.  Parkinson’s is characterized by muscle rigidity, tremors, a slowing of physical movement and, in extreme cases, a loss of physical movement. There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s, but medications or surgery can provide relief from the symptoms.

Despite its debilitating effects, many sufferers of Parkinson’s have enjoyed considerable achievement in a wide variety of fields. They include award-winning actors and actresses, champion athletes, acclaimed singers and musicians, respected authors and artists and prominent heads of state.

Examples of celebrities with Parkinson’s include Michael J Fox, Muhammad Ali, and Janet Reno.  In this series, we will explore these celebrities, their battles with Parkinson’s and their notable contributions to helping fund research to develop a cure and a vaccine.

Part 1: Spotlight on Michael J. Fox

 “Parkinson’s is a perfect metaphor for lack of control. Every unwanted movement in my hand or arm, every twitch that I cannot anticipate or arrest, is a reminder that even in the domain of my own being, I am not calling the shots.”
― Michael J. Fox, A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Future…: Twists and Turns and Lessons Learned

Born in 1961, Michael J. Fox is a Canadian-American television and screen actor.  He first became famous in 1982, when he starred as Alex P. Keaton on the popular television sitcom Family Ties.  He also had enormous success on the big screen, playing Marty McFly in Back to the Future and starring in other films such as Teen Wolf, The Secret of My Success, Doc Hollywood, and Bright Lights, Big City.

Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease in 1991 at the age of 30.  In late 1999, he made the public announcement that he had been battling Parkinson’s disease.  He continued acting until he retired from the hit TV show “Spin City”, to spend time with his family, and to concentrate on raising money and awareness for Parkinson’s.

In May 2000, Fox launched the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research. It is now the largest private foundation for Parkinson’s research, having invested $313 million into research to date.

The goal of Michael J. Fox’s Foundation is to accelerate the best ideas in Parkinson’s disease research toward clinical testing and practical relevance for patients. The Foundation constantly builds and refines their understanding of the therapeutic needs of Parkinson’s patients and they use their research to develop tools and resources that will help accelerate the development of Parkinson’s disease treatments.

Fox wholeheartedly believes that if there is a concentrated effort from the Parkinson’s community, researchers can pinpoint the cause of Parkinson’s and uncover a cure.  He has used his celebrity status to bring much needed attention to the fight to cure Parkinson’s Disease. 

Today, Fox is as famous for his Parkinson’s advocacy as he is for his acting. He sits on the Board of Directors for his foundation and serves as its inspirational leader.  He travels and speaks frequently about his experience with Parkinson’s and authored three books including his own memoir, Lucky Man: A Memoir.

In recent news, in an effort to cope with the demands of his public appearances, Fox had been taking more of his medication than he was prescribed.  Unfortunately, this over use of medication resulted in a side effect known as tardive dyskinesia, characterized by uncontrollable shaking and repetitive movements. Fox changed his drug regimen to help control his tics and will be returning to television this year.

Are you or a loved one suffering from Parkinson’s Disease?

At The Fairfax and Fredericksburg Elder Law Firms of Evan H. Farr, P.C., we are dedicated to easing the financial and emotional burden on those suffering from Parkinson’s Disease and their loved ones.  If you or a loved one are suffering from Parkinson’s disease, we can help you prepare for your future financial and long-term care needs.  We help protect your hard-earned assets while maintaining your comfort, dignity, and quality of life by ensuring your eligibility for critical government benefits.

How can we help?

A diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease means adjusting to decreased mobility and other burdens of the disease. To alleviate problems later, it is important to plan now for the worst to ensure your wishes are carried out and your family protected.

The first and most essential legal document is a Power of Attorney. Parkinson’s disease can be very disruptive, and there may come a time with the illness that you would prefer others make choices for you. Many married couples assume that they are allowed to make legally binding decisions on behalf of their spouses. Unfortunately, this is not the case unless you sign a power of attorney. 

In addition, part of lifetime planning is to ensure that you or your loved one gets the best possible care and maintains the highest possible quality of life, whether at home, in an assisted living facility, or in a nursing home. Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection can be started any time after a person enters the “long-term care continuum,” meaning that a person is starting to need assistance with Activities of Daily Living (eating, dressing, bathing, toileting, transferring, and walking) or Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (such as cooking,  cleaning, caring for pets, paying bills and managing finances).  This type of planning can be started while you are still able to make legal and financial decisions, or can be initiated by an adult child acting as agent under a properly-drafted Power of Attorney, even if you are already in a nursing home or receiving other long-term care assistance.  In fact, the majority of our Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection clients come to us when nursing home care is already in place or is imminent.  Read more about Life Care Planning and Medicaid Asset Protection.

Our next article in the series will explore Muhammad Ali and his fight against Parkinson’s Disease. If you or a loved one have Parkinson’s Disease, plan for your future. Call The Fairfax and Fredericksburg Elder Law Firms of Evan H. Farr, P.C. at 703-691-1888 today to make an appointment for a no-cost consultation.

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  1. [...] any of the parts of this three-part “Celebrities with Parkinson’s” series, you can read Part 1: Michael J. Fox or Part 2: Muhammad Ali on our Elder Law Plus blog.  If you or a loved one has Parkinson’s [...]

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