Support Available For Parkinson's Sufferers, Caregivers

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People with Parkinson's disease and their caregivers have a place to go for information, support and fellowship -- the Parkinson's Support Group. It meets from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. the first Thursday of each month. The next meeting is this Thursday, March 1 at the First Southern Baptist Church, 302 S. Ash St.

The group was founded by Jim Young a year ago and is just beginning to take root. Young was diagnosed with the disease 10 years ago.

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Occupational therapist Diane R. Johnson of Banner Health's Movement Disorder Clinic tests range of motion at a meeting of the monthly Parkinson's Disease Support Group.

Dr. Alan Michels and Kathie Carpenter facilitate the group.

"The fundamental problem in Parkinson's is the lack of dopamine, a neural chemical that is used in the brain to make things work right," Michels said.

Sinemet, the brand name for the drug levedopa, is converted by the brain into dopamine, but, as the disease worsens, larger and larger doses must be taken. With the increased mobility Sinemet offers, come side effects, such as hallucinations and muscle spasms. Carpidopa, the other active ingredient in Sinemet, helps to reduce these side effects.

There is no cure for Parkinson's, but speech pathologists, physical and occupational therapists and physicians can help sufferers continue to live a full life.

The services provided through the support group can also help. Support groups are designed to help patients and their families come to a better knowledge and understanding of the disease. The groups also foster a warm and supportive atmosphere in which everyone feels equally important, Carpenter said.

The basic goals are to offer friendship, support and encouragement to one another, she said.

Education is one of the primary services offered through the support group. Members are provided, at no charge, booklets dealing with symptoms, medication, physical exercise, support, communication problems and equipment.

The group also provides an opportunity for patients to discuss their concerns and questions with others suffering from the same condition.

Because Parkinson's disease also has an impact on the patient's family, the support group provides services to meet the needs of family and caregivers, including a place to meet with others and exchange information.

The support group has fostered another tool for those suffering from the disease -- a yoga class for those with movement disorders.

A special program is planned for March 15. Author Janet Edmunson will present a program at 3 p.m. Thursday, March 15, at the Southern Baptist Church. She wrote the book, "Finding Meaning with Charles: Care Giving with Love through a Degenerative Disease."

To learn more about the Parkinson's Support Group, contact Kathie Carpenter at (928) 468-2196 or e-mail kcaz2730@yahoo.com. For information about the movement class, call (928) 472-7120.

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