By Greg Price
There will be a series of sessions coming up in the fall months at the Taber Public Library to help families dealing with loved ones afflicted with Parkinson’s disease.
“September we start our programs and our services back up, our core programs like our support groups,” said Beth Metcalf, client services co-ordinator for Parkinson Alberta. “There are also non-core programs like exercise programs, singing programs, a dance program and a speech and swallowing program, and yoga.”
The hope for Parkinson Alberta is to build capacity in the Taber area, with Parkinson Alberta being serviced out of the Lethbridge office.
“The Taber support group meets every second Tuesday of every month at the Taber Library board room from 10 a.m. until noon,” said Metcalf.
Parkinson Alberta has lined up speakers for September, October and November for the Taber support group.
September’s (Sept. 13) speaker is Dr. Jon Doan from the University of Lethbridge, talking about the U of L’s research pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.
The Oct. 11 meeting will feature Taber Co-Op pharmacy’s Carin Jensen to talk about optimizing Parkinson’s disease medication and to answer questions about the medication.
The Nov. 8 meeting’s guest is Chinook Health Region’s Irene Forsey talking about the Big and Loud Program, which is featured at the Chinook Health Region Hospital in their out-patient clinic.
“Big and Loud is for people with Parkinson’s. One of the symptoms is sometimes they lose their speech where their volume tails off and it’s hard to hear them, or they are mumbling,” said Metcalf.
“She will be talking about talking louder and doing bigger movements. Often people stop swinging their arms when they are walking. They shuffle and their gait becomes quite small.”
In Alberta alone there are over 9,000 people who are affected by Parkinson’s disease.
“Those 9,000 do not include the families. There are spouses, children or significant others of those who are diagnosed who are affected as well.”
Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disorder that affects motor and non-motor functions due to a lack of dopamine in the brain. Dopamine allows nerve impulses to travel smoothly from one cell to the other. When dopamine is reduced, the messages from the brain to the nerve cells aren’t properly transmitted, resulting in the recognizable tremors, rigidity and slowness of movement in Parkinson’s patients. The average age of diagnosis is 58, though Parkinson’s also affects many people in their 40s, 30s and even 20s. Parkinson’s disease is the second most common neurodegenerative disease, after Alzheimer’s. There is no known cause or cure.
Without a cure, management of symptoms becomes the focus of Parkinson’s, and it involves a team of healthcare professionals. The typical person with Parkinson’s may have a family physician, neurologist or movement disorder specialist, pharmacist, occupational therapist, physiotherapist, social worker/psychologist, speech and language pathologist and dietitian working with them.
There are many drug and therapy-based treatments used to control symptoms of PD and slow their progression to improve an individual’s quality of life. Surgery, including the implantation of a deep brain stimulator, can be helpful for some.
“What we do as an organization across the province is we provide support services, education, advocacy, and funds for research. We support research that is being done at the University of Alberta, University of Lethbridge, and as well at the University of Calgary,” said Metcalf. “Talking about education, that includes our research libraries in our regional offices, our information packages, brochures, pamphlets and our education days. Support services are one-on-one, family supports, group supports, home visits and care-facility visits.”
Parkinson Alberta also offers a tele-support group once a month, every month of the year. It happens every Thursday of every month at 10 a.m. for one hour.
“We really want to be able to extend our reach into those outlying rural communities that don’t have access to specialists or don’t have access to a Parkinson’s office,” said Metcalf, adding those who want to register for it can call 1-800-561-1911 for more information. “It is also to provide support to health-care professionals.”
Parkinson Alberta is hosting its largest annual fundraiser this upcoming weekend with the Walk and Talk Flexxaire Parkinson’s Step n’ Stride.
The Lethbridge event goes Saturday, Sept. 10 from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at Indian Battle Park Elks Compound. The Medicine Hat walk goes on Sunday, Sept. 11 from noon-4 p.m. at the Crescent Heights High School Rotary Track. People can register online at http://www.parkinsonalberta.ca.