Managing apathy for friends and family

Apathy is being increasingly recognised in Parkinson’s. It is described as a lack of enthusiasm and emotion for everyday activities. This can feel like depression. 

Unlike depression though, apathy is not linked to low self-esteem or a negative outlook on the future. So just because someone experiences apathy, it doesn't mean they are depressed.

Apathy can be temporary, but frustrating if you are looking after someone who experiences it. Here we share tips for managing if your loved one has apathy.

1
Remember apathy is a symptom of Parkinson's

It can be frustrating if your loved one doesn’t seem interested in activities or socialising. You might feel they don’t want to help themselves or just don’t care. Try to remember that apathy is a symptom of Parkinson’s and if your loved one doesn’t engage, they are not being lazy or difficult on purpose. 

2
Offer encouragement

If someone is experiencing apathy, it can be easy to cancel plans or decide they don’t want to do something. Keep encouraging your loved one to take part in activities or visiting friends, for example. They may be reluctant, but engaging with something can have a positive effect on their mental health.

3
Stick to a routine

Establish a regular routine where your loved one has to do tasks at certain times. Make these non-negotiable. 

4
Set a goal

Support your loved one to set a goal. Help them to break the goal down into smaller, manageable tasks so they are more likely to achieve what they have set out to do.

5
Offer encouragement

You may need to prompt your loved one to start an activity and then offer support as they progress with the task. Try to be positive and focus on what they have achieved. 

6
Look after yourself

Looking after someone with apathy can also affect your own mental health, so it’s important you look after yourself. Take regular breaks if you can and talk to people who may be in a similar situation to you. This could be through a local Parkinson’s group or our forum. You can also contact the Parkinson’s UK helpline (0808 800 0303 or [email protected]).