Living with Parkinson’s

In this the first post on my new blog ‘Room 2850‘ I want to show some photographs that document the progressive effect of Parkinson’s disease on Dave Forsyth, my father.

Parkinson’s is a long-term neurological condition that affects the way the brain co-ordinates body movements, including walking, talking and writing and affects both men and women, it is caused by a loss of nerve cells in the part of the brain called the substantia nigra. The nerve cells in this part of the brain are responsible for producing a chemical called dopamine. Dopamine acts as a messenger between the brain and the nervous system, and helps control and co-ordinate body movements. If these nerve cells become damaged or die, the amount of dopamine in the brain is reduced. This means that the part of the brain that controls movement cannot work as well as it should and this in turn causes movements to become slow and abnormal.

Having being diagnosed with the disease my father is now forced to take a large concoction of tablets and medication everyday to try and keep the symptoms under control. However if the medication isn’t taken at the right time then the swift onset of the violent tremors that are a major effect of the disease will quickly occur. A noticeable sign of his struggle with the tremors is the way he holds his right hand, the worst one for tremors, with his left hand or by keeping it in his pocket to try and keep the tremors from becoming too obvious.

A previously active life has now had to be radically adjusted as he learns to live with the disease and the work that is now involved by both him and his constantly watchful wife, my mother, Judith, who has now taken on the roll of a full-time carer is great. Everyday tasks can be so affected by the disease, that it becomes a constant struggle to maintain any sense of normality and as the disease progresses and partly as a result of the side affects of the medication he suffers from not only the violent tremors but hallucinations, sleep loss, loss of balance and, at times, great confusion.

Currently the periods of lucidness are in the majority, as long as the medication is taken when it should be, and the periods when the disease takes control are in the minority and whilst the energy taken to fight this illness and indeed to simply live with it is great and can be visible on his face my father continues to battle the disease.

NOTE: This project is a work in progress and is slowly being added to as and when I can and will, hopefully, be a lasting record to the struggle to fight the illness that he has suffered from for many years. A common misconception is that you have to travel to the four corners of the world to find interesting and engaging stories and whilst, to a degree this can be true, often, there are interesting and equally strong stories closer to home.

If you want to know more about Parkinson’s disease visit Parkinson’s UK

Published by ian forsyth photography

Press and Documentary photographer covering the North of England. Stringer & contributor for Getty Images News. Prints are available to buy on my website.

21 thoughts on “Living with Parkinson’s

  1. Hi Ian,

    Fantastic first post mate, a subject close to my heart. My wife’s father had Parkinson’s disease and your images really reminded us both of how this disease can affect the people we love so much. The images, depicting the way your Dad stands, holds his hands, shuffles through the back door… so reminiscent of my Father-in-Law. Gwyn passed away four years ago following a brain haemorrhage caused by Leukaemia. My thoughts are with your Dad, Mum and whole family.

    How’s life going on the other side of the fence? Seven months and counting and I will be joining you.

    Keep up the great work,



  2. Hi Paul and thanks for the comment and the kind words.

    Life on the other side is good – opportunities to shoot so many different stories, projects and ideas – not all financially rewarding of course – but when did anyone become a photographer to get rich!!??

    Seven months will fly past, good luck, let me know if I can do anything.



  3. GREAT PROJECT… keep taking the photos very intresting to see how your dad holds his hands just like i hold my hands i was diagnosed with parkinsons just over 2 years ago aged 50 and i still struggle each day and ask why ME ..


    1. Thanks for the comment – the ‘hand holding’ seems to be a feature many sufferers do, I guess to try and control the shaking to a degree.


  4. Thanks for this. I will follow it with interest. My dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s aged 80, now 84 he has the hand tremors, he struggles to walk any great distance, he was 6 feet tall and is now stooped and shorter than me. and this last month we notice his head shaking sometimes. Like your dad he has a concoction of medication. Despite it all he still drives, lives independently in the house he has been in for 30 years, with my mum, who cares for him. He cares for her too, as she is diabetic. All the very best to you and your parents. Have a peaceful Christmas.


    1. Thanks for the comment Julie. My mam has also recently being diagnosed with diabetes but is more able to care for my dad than the other way around.
      Best of luck to you and your parents.


  5. Thank you Ian for sharing a part of your life. You are a great B/W photographer Maybe you can give me some tips!!
    I was diagnosed at the age of 44yrs with Parkinson’s I am now 55yr I still do all activities tiredness is a struggle.The best thing I ever did was join Tai Chi. Thank you for these photos and also best wishes to your Mum and Dad. I’m from New Zealand I may do a similar project. I love photography A great idea.


    1. Thanks for the comment Diana.
      All the best and good luck with the task of dealing with your Parkinson’s.
      Happy to offer any photo advice should it be needed, please feel free to drop me an email.


  6. Hi Ian. Thanks for starting this blog. I will follow it with interest. We are currently living the nightmare. My husbands sister ( now aged 72) was diagnosed several years ago. She was admirably cared for by her husband, ten years her senior, until 18mths ago when she became acutely unwell and had to be admitted to an elderly psychiatric assessment unit. The diagnosis of Parkinsons dementia was made and attempts were made to discharge her back home, but exactly a year ago today, her husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer and so we had to find her a care home. She has been in the home 6mths now, the staff are very good with her. We visit 2-3 times a week. She seems to know who we are, but often we find her sobbing. She can’t tell us what is making her so upset, she doesn’t know what day of the week it is, she doesn’t even realise it’s Christmas, but turn the conversation to things that have happened in her past often she will make relevent conversation. She shuffles, some days the tremors are worse than others, she has had several falls ending up in A&E. On a good day you will find her in the office with the Nurse Manager ‘helping’ with the filing as in her working life she managed several care homes for disabled people. Ironic that she should end up in one herself. We are slowly coming to terms with what has happened. Currently my husband and i are now looking after her husband, who is still with us but is needing all care. Hopefully he will be well enough for us to take him to see her on Christmas Day.
    I see Molly in the photos of your Dad, the unsmiling mask-like facial expression, the staring, the hand-holding and body language. I wish you all the best for Christmas and for the future.
    Thanks for posting


    1. Thanks for your comment Rose and I appreciate you taking the time to share your experiences and the battles you all face every day.
      All the best and good luck with everything.
      Many regards,


  7. My dad was diagnosed with Parkinsons about four years ago now. He lives abroad so unfortunately I don’t get to see much of him. I worry about him a lot though. I worry about the future. When he isn’t as capable as he is now.

    Anyhow, your photographs are very powerful. Thank you for sharing them.

    Best Wishes



  8. This seems like a brave way of confronting your fears and sadness over your Dad. My Mum was formallly diagnosed 18 months ago, though most of us “knew” a year before that. That lost far away look breaks your heart, and the dips in and out of confusion cause such misunderstading and bad feelng: it’s like the parent you loved and understood has already left. Warm wishes and solidarity.

    Libbie Noakes


  9. Amazing blogg. I will be following as progresses. My father to has Parkinson’s,he was diagnosed some 15+ years ago so I understand what you are all going through. It is a tough horrible disease. My father and my mother have been greatly helped with there faith,it helps them through the bad days. It is horrible to see someone you love so much struggleing with life but for me it has brought me so much closer to my parents ,it has made me realise they will not be here forever it is just unfortunate it has taken such a horrid disease to make me understand this. My love and hugs to you all and thank you once again for this blogg. Love nikki xx


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