Capital Area Parkinson's Society

Empathy in Action: Supporting Employees with Parkinson’s Disease in the Workplace

Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a challenging diagnosis that not only impacts individuals but also extends to their workplaces. Organizations have a crucial role to play in creating a supportive and empathetic environment for employees with Parkinson’s. And that’s what we’re exploring in this post. It’s full of practical strategies that organizations can implement to assist their employees with Parkinson’s by fostering inclusivity and understanding in the workplace.

Promoting Education and Awareness in the Office

The best way organizations can start supporting employees is by fostering a culture of education and awareness about Parkinson’s Disease. Providing resources, holding workshops, or answering people’s questions can help employees and management better understand the nature of Parkinson’s, its symptoms, and the potential challenges individuals may face. This knowledge forms the foundation for creating an environment of empathy and support in the workplace.

Ensure Supervisors Have Adequate Knowledge About PD

One critical aspect of creating a Parkinson’s-friendly workplace is ensuring that supervisors possess adequate knowledge about PD. Supervisors play a pivotal role in day-to-day interactions with employees, and understanding the nuances of Parkinson’s is essential for effective management. Training supervisors to recognize symptoms, understand the potential impact on work, and communicate empathetically contributes significantly to a supportive workplace culture.

Be Open to Flexible Work Arrangements

Recognizing the diverse needs of employees with Parkinson’s, organizations can explore flexible work arrangements. This could include adjusting work hours, allowing for remote work when feasible, or providing the option of part-time schedules. Flexibility empowers individuals with Parkinson’s to manage their symptoms effectively while remaining productive contributors to the team.

Create Open and Transparent Lines of Communication

Encouraging open and transparent communication is paramount in every work situation, but it’s absolutely essential when an employee has PD. You must create a safe space for employees to discuss their condition with supervisors, human resources, and colleagues. Clear communication channels ensure that everyone is on the same page, fostering support and understanding within the organization.

Make Reasonable Accommodations

Organizations should be proactive in identifying and implementing reasonable accommodations for employees with Parkinson’s. This may involve making adjustments to the physical workspace, providing assistive technology, or modifying job responsibilities to align with the individual’s capabilities. Taking these steps ensures that the workplace is accessible at all times.

Provide Empathy Training for Employees

Implementing empathy training programs for all employees can significantly contribute to a supportive workplace culture in general. Empathy training helps colleagues understand the challenges faced by individuals with Parkinson’s and encourages a compassionate and collaborative atmosphere. This level of understanding can lead to stronger teamwork within the organization.

Implement Wellness Programs

Implementing wellness programs that focus on physical and mental health is beneficial for all employees, including those with Parkinson’s. These programs can include fitness classes, stress management sessions, and mental health resources. By promoting overall well-being, organizations contribute to the holistic health of everyone in their workforce.

Put Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) Into Practice

EAPs can be a valuable resource for employees dealing with Parkinson’s. These programs often provide counseling services, support groups, and resources to help individuals cope with the emotional as well as practical aspects of living with Parkinson’s. By offering access to EAPs, organizations demonstrate a commitment to the health and wellbeing of their employees.

Offer Career Development Opportunities

Employees with Parkinson’s should not be excluded from career development opportunities. Organizations can create a level playing field by ensuring that individuals with Parkinson’s have access to training, mentorship programs, and opportunities for advancement. This inclusion reinforces the organization’s commitment to equal opportunities for professional growth.

Doing What’s Right for Employees and Your Business 

Supporting employees with Parkinson’s Disease is not just a legal or ethical obligation for organizations. It’s an opportunity to cultivate a workplace culture that values empathy, inclusivity, and understanding. By implementing practical strategies that promote education, flexibility, open communication and wellness, organizations can create an environment where employees with Parkinson’s can thrive both personally and professionally. 

Empowering supervisors with knowledge about Parkinson’s Disease is a crucial step toward building a workplace that not only supports its employees with PD but also fosters a culture of empathy and collaboration. In doing so, organizations contribute to a workplace culture that embraces diversity and prioritizes the well-being of all employees. 

About Capital Areas Parkinson’s Society (CAPS)

Capital Area Parkinson’s Society (“CAPS”) is dedicated to supporting the needs of people in Central Texas who are living with Parkinson’s disease and those who care for them through education, information, support, and services.

Founded in 1984, CAPS is a volunteer-led 501(c)3 non-profit serving the Central Texas community.  Membership in CAPS is open to anyone with an interest in Parkinson’s Disease and offered at no cost. If you would like to be a member, get involved or support CAPS, please register at https://capitalareaParkinson’ or call 512-371-3373 or via email at info@capitalareaParkinson’

Written by: Jennifer Prescott RN, MSN, CDP
Vice President Capital Area Parkinson’s Society 
Founder/COO Blue Water Homecare and Hospice

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