BACKGROUND: Parkinson's disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disease that significantly affects patients' quality of life. The myriad complexities of the disease, including its nonmotor manifestations, are beginning to be more fully appreciated, particularly in regard to the emotional and social effects of PD. Considering that both motor and nonmotor manifestations of PD significantly influence the health outcomes and conditions of patients, and their health-related quality of life (HRQOL), we collected qualitative data from patients with PD, as well as caregivers of persons with PD having cognitive impairment, to assess their perceptions of the impact of PD on HRQOL. METHODS: We conducted eight focus groups and five one-on-one interviews in English and in Spanish between March 2007 and February 2008. Three of the focus groups were conducted with a total of 15 caregivers; the remaining focus groups and all interviews were conducted with 48 PD patients. Study participants were asked about the challenges that PD patients may experience, particularly pertaining to physical functioning, the impact of PD on their emotional status, and social functioning. RESULTS: Based on analysis of the transcripts, we identified seven overarching domains or themes that reflect patients' perspectives on living with PD, ie, physical functioning, social and role functioning, emotional impact, fears and uncertainty about the future, stigma and other feelings about PD, coping mechanisms, and benefits of having PD. CONCLUSION: We underscore the salient aspects regarding the physical effects of PD along with its nonphysical ramifications, offering perspectives into the experience of PD and suggestions on how PD patients and their caregivers may cope with the disease.