My 29-year-old son burst into my room in an alarmed state. He had just seen a commercial about hallucination and Parkinson’s disease. The commercial reports that 50% of people with Parkinson’s will experience hallucinations or delusions during the course of their disease. My son was terrified and asked, “Is that what’s going to happen to you mom?”
Aside from my personal relationship with Parkinson’s, I am a mother, and I was irritated that advertising about a symptom of Parkinson’s had scared my grown son.
The commercial is shot in horror film style, dark and moody. The story takes place in a dimly lit home, with a Parkinson’s character describing his hallucinations. He whimpers that “secret visitors” appear out of nowhere as the camera ominously searches the room.
The commercial illustrates the difficulty in balancing dramatic intention and information about a serious health concern in a film.
It is difficult to represent a medical condition like Parkinson’s disease. Those of us who have it each wear the disease differently. Although people with Parkinson’s are unique in their display of the disease, it is frustrating to watch actors portraying the disease focused on a particular symptom when PD is a changing reality for those of us who have the disease.
Although I didn’t like their commercial, Acadia Pharmaceuticals Inc. deserves recognition for their effort to bring a new medication to the public, and for exposing a trying and important medical problem. Their website More to Parkinson’s offers significant information about motor symptoms and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. It defines hallucinations as seeing, hearing, or experiencing things that aren’t real. Delusions are explained as believing things that aren’t true. Advice is included on how to get help and specialists to see for the two conditions.
Useful information such as this could have helped my family with my mother who thought she saw ants, and cats, and packed for a Hawaiian cruise due to hallucinations from her Parkinson’s disease.
The Parkinson’s community needs to inform families about hallucinations and delusions so that they aren’t afraid of spooky commercials that scare them. Getting to know the monster is half the battle for those who are upset when they observe their loved ones experiencing hallucinations or delusions.