By TERRI BRYCE REEVES
“I felt there was something
wrong with me.
I didn’t know it was part of
After a 20-year police career in Baltimore followed by nine years with the Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office, Dan Cotton, once an undercover detective, concluded that coping with his Parkinson’s diagnosis was the one case he could not solve, particularly after experiencing frightening hallucinations.
Cotton, now 53, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease (PD) in 2013, following the onset of a tremor in his right hand. The Port Charlotte resident continued
as a community relations officer until a minor car accident and a failed physical abilities test ended his career.
He felt depressed and unsure about what to do next.
Support groups helped until a year-and-a-half ago, when new non-motor symptoms caught him by surprise.
He began seeing shadows of cats and dogs, responding to questions his wife never asked, and once, Cotton’s brother appeared in the passenger seat of his truck and attempted to give him driving instructions. “He lives up north and is terrible at directions,” said Cotton. “I felt there was something mentally wrong with me. I didn’t know it was part of Parkinson’s.”
Approximately one million Americans live with PD, but the onset of hallucinations and delusions (false beliefs) often comes as a surprise to patients and caregivers.
These symptoms will affect more than half of people with PD, yet only 10 to 20 percent of caregivers or patients ever report these symptoms to their doctor, possibly because they are embarrassed and/or do not realize that non-motor symptoms are part of the disease.
This spring, a survey of people with PD and PD caregivers conducted by the PMD Alliance found that nearly all respondents (90 percent) have experienced
(or reported their loved one experienced) non-motor symptoms associated with PD. Nearly half felt these types of symptoms were harder to live with than physical symptoms of PD.
Cotton talked to his PD specialist (a neurologist with special training) about his hallucinations and the doctor prescribed a fairly new drug treatment specifically
approved by the FDA for his symptoms.
“After about three weeks, I noticed the hallucinations started to disappear,” he said.
Today, Cotton volunteers his time with his local PD support group and speaks to groups about his disease. He encourages patients and caregivers to visit their doctor and discuss their symptoms openly so they can receive proper treatment.
“I’m sharing my story so others know,” he said.