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With Shaking Hands

With Shaking Hands: Aging with Parkinson's Disease in America's Heartland

Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 232
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  • Book Info
    With Shaking Hands
    Book Description:

    Far from celebrity media spotlight, ordinary individuals, many older and less advantaged, suffer the disabling pain of Parkinson's disease (PD), an illness whose progressive symptoms often mimic old age and cause mobility impairment, communication barriers, and social isolation.

    At the heart ofWith Shaking Handsis the account of elder Americans in rural Iowa who have been diagnosed with PD. With a focus on the impact of chronic illness on an aging population, Samantha Solimeo combines clear and accessible prose with qualitative and quantitative research to demonstrate how PD accelerates, mediates, and obscures patterns of aging. She explores how ideas of what to expect in older age influence and direct interpretations of one's body.

    This sensitive and groundbreaking work unites theories of disease with modern conceptions of the body in biological and social terms. PD, like other chronic disorders, presents a special case of embodiment which challenge our thinking about how such diseases should be researched and how they are experienced.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4712-1
    Subjects: Health Sciences, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. 1 Introduction Becoming Old, Becoming Sick
    (pp. 1-25)

    Leroy and Kathryn live in a modest two-story home on the edge of one of Iowa’s few urban centers. They bought their home about forty years ago, shortly after they were married, when Leroy started work as a primary school teacher. Together, Leroy and Kathryn raised a small family and maintained active social lives in their faith and arts communities. Leroy was almost seventy years old when I first met him, and had had Parkinson’s disease (PD) for about six years. He was diagnosed just a few years after he retired, and his case had progressed from its simple presentation...

  6. 2 Ethnography and Age in the Field
    (pp. 26-45)

    The directions that Everett gave me over the phone took me out along the inter-state, past thigh-high cornstalks and deep green fields of soybeans, and then along the meandering country highway that led into town. Even though I had lived in Iowa for a few years, to my mind “town” still connoted high-rise apartment buildings, traffic, and crowds. In Iowa, “town” can refer to a village of five hundred or to a small city of sixty thousand. Town, as opposed to “country,” is where you go to shop, see the doctor, or perhaps attend church services. Country is where you...

  7. 3 It Takes a Little While to Find Out for Sure
    (pp. 46-62)

    Peter and Laura live in a modest apartment in the center of town, just off the main square. I met them on a sunny morning in early summer, when their window garden was just beginning to burgeon with tomatoes, lettuce, and herbs. Laura greeted me at the door and gave me a quick tour of their apartment. It was a small two-bedroom with a patio and eat-in kitchen. Their furniture seemed to dominate the rooms, a consequence of their having downsized from a large home. About five years earlier Peter and Laura were finding it increasingly difficult to keep up...

  8. 4 Itʹs a Nasty, Hiding Disease
    (pp. 63-83)

    It was more than fifteen years ago when Helen noticed her legs shaking whenever she was seated. She casually mentioned it to her family doctor, who suggested that she see a neurologist. At first the neurologist diagnosed it as essential tremor and sent her on her way with no information on prognosis, no relief for symptoms, and no plan for follow up. When Helen’s symptoms became so severe that she spent hours sitting with her legs curled up and rocking back and forth to relieve the uneasy feeling in her legs, she returned to the neurologist for more information and...

  9. 5 I Donʹt Know What to Blame It On
    (pp. 84-99)

    Edgar and his wife have lived in their modest home in a town of about five thousand people for the past forty years. They attend church weekly and a PD support group meeting monthly, as they are able. Every few weeks or so they get together with other family members to spend a day at a local casino or to share a meal at a local restaurant. Their children visit often and they enjoy being around their grandchildren. Edgar feels that his PD is pretty well controlled with a daily regimen of carbidopa-levodopa and ropinerole. He goes for physical therapy...

  10. 6 I Donʹt Know Whatʹs Worse, Parkinsonʹs or the Medications
    (pp. 100-120)

    Gordon and Irene, both now in their early seventies, had met and married in their early twenties. They raised four children and have three grandchildren, all of whom live within a day’s drive. Irene worked at home, taking care of the children, and spent time volunteering at the county library. Gordon worked as a lineman for the local electric company—“a rather dangerous job,” as he put it—for forty years. They lived in the same house for more than forty-five years and have always resided within ten miles of their birthplaces. Gordon had looked forward to a retirement packed...

  11. 7 It Gets Worse
    (pp. 121-136)

    Anna was born and raised on a farm just outside a small town in southern Iowa. She met her husband to be, Thomas, at a country dance when they were teenagers, and they married just a few years later. Anna stayed at home with her children until the youngest was in school. At that time she began a career in clerical and accounting positions at various companies in more urban areas of the state. Anna and her husband retired the same week about twenty years ago and have been enjoying this phase of married life, although recent years have unfolded...

  12. 8 Changing Bodies, Changing Roles
    (pp. 137-153)

    Audrey invited me to meet her at her new apartment, located just a few minutes’ drive from the nursing home where her husband, Glen, now resided. When she answered the door, I was struck by how young she looked. At only sixty years old she has already had to make decisions often thought of as end-of-life planning. While her husband was ten years her senior and not actively dying, his PD had progressed until she could no longer sleep for more than several hours at a time without waking up worried that he might be endangering himself or her.


  13. 9 Conclusion Aging, Embodiment, and Conditions
    (pp. 154-164)

    In the lazy postlunch hour the support group members and I found seats around the conference table. Everett brought the meeting to order and slowly everyone drew their private conversations to a close and gave him their attention. Everett suggested that we go around the table and each say a few words about how we were doing.

    EVERETT: I have been doing pretty well this past month. I can’t sleep at night, but that is nothing new. I wake up four or five times a night—I bet I get about five hours of sleep a night. My golf swing...

    (pp. 165-174)
    (pp. 175-178)
    (pp. 179-190)
  17. INDEX
    (pp. 191-192)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 193-194)