Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is one of the most common neurological disorders that affect mainly people over the age of 55 although the last several years show an increase of it being diagnosed in those younger.
PD is a slow, progressive and debilitating disease with some of the characteristics being tremors, slowing of movements, muscle rigidity and cramps, shuffling walk, decrease in postural stability, impaired balance, fatigue. These and other symptoms vary from person to person, with some usually occurring early on while some later in the disease process. They are due to a loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain and by the time one is diagnosed with PD up to 50 per cent of those cells are already lost. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that allows nerve impulses to travel from one cell to another telling the muscles what the brain wants them to do.
The severity and progression of Parkinson’s is individual and is managed by things such as medication, physical therapy, a surgery called deep brain stimulation and more, but one of the things a person with this disease can do to be proactive in their own well-being and make a difference in their day-to-day life is exercise. Being active is one of the most important things any of us can do for ourselves. It has been shown that if an individual with PD participates early on in a regular, well-rounded, enjoyable exercise program it can slow the onset of some symptoms, can slow the progression of existing ones, and in some cases people have been able to reduce the amount of medication they are currently taking. In Vernon we are lucky to have fitness professional Rhona Parsons take a special interest in working with people who have PD. She teaches a twice weekly exercise class put together specifically for those with the disease, has facilitated the local Parkinson’s SuperWalk which takes place in September, and has recently attended an intense Parkinson Wellness Recovery training course under the guidance of neuroscientist Dr. Becky Farley. She hopes to add more classes to her schedule so that she may bring hope and optimism to others with PD.
PD does not only affect the individual but the whole family so it is important to make sure those members — who at some point may become caregiver — learn and understand PD and know that there is a network of people offering help and concern such as Vernon’s Parkinson Support Group, the Parkinson Society of B.C., family doctors, specialists, extended family, exercise professionals, pharmacists, etc. The local support group meets the third Thursday of the month at People Place at 1 p.m. Often there are guest speakers who offer information on relevant topics such as medication, travel insurance, tax benefits, etc. At the Thursday meeting, Parsons will be talking about as well as demonstrating key points she has brought back from her workshop with Dr. Farley. Everyone is welcome at any of the meetings.
For more details, call Gord/Pat Nuyens at 250-542-9026, Nell Friesen at 250-549-1580 or Paul Jones at 250-542-7563.