Deirdre O'Sullivan of Parkinson's presents BACS Good Business Egg Awards after moving speech

Health and wellbeing community leader Deirdre O’Sullivan presents the award to Countdown after exceptional speech.

Deirdre O Sullivan

There’s a positive attitude in this room tonight, and that’s the attitude we encourage at Parkinson’s New Zealand.  We support people living with Parkinson’s to remain active in their communities and also mentally and physically active through exercise, singing groups, dance sessions and even specials boxing classes run by heavyweight boxer Shane Cameron.

I’d like you – the heavyweights of the business world to join us. You have over 13,000 potential customers living with Parkinson’s, and that’s over 13,000 families that could be attracted by your approach.

I just want to share a recent story with you that show the potential business has for improving the quality of life of people living with Parkinson’s.

A newly appointed and enthusiastic assistant manager noticed a drunk customer in his supermarket. Worried that the middle aged woman who had slurred speech and a staggering gait might cause a disturbance, he called the police.

The police arrived, and due to their training, quickly realised that she had Parkinson’s. This store is not Countdown, you’ll be pleased to hear!  However I’m sure you can all imagine how distressing the incident was for the customer, staff and everyone in the store.

This weekly shopping trip was a highlight of Siobhan’s week. Siobhan told me how she would time her trip for when she was ‘at her best’ and would enjoy the opportunity to speak with a number of the staff who were friendly.

Following the incidence Siobhan said to me, “Even though everyone was very apologetic  it really has put me off going out; it is so embarrassing and depressing to think that people are viewing me as drunk, or stupid or just a nuisance – in the way.”

Many people with Parkinson’s experience real social isolation.  Incidences like this can lead to the development of anxieties that make leaving home and keeping in touch with friends extremely difficult.  We need to raise awareness of the condition to stop this sort of thing happening to people like Siobhan.

Her experience was far from rare. A recent study found that that more than half the people in the UK who’ve been diagnosed with the condition have found their lives blighted by rudeness and hostility.

Every business in this room can help here. I need your commitment to stand with us and have every person with Parkinson’s enjoy their experience of your business.