Parkinson's Awareness Month raises visibility of 900 active groups; National Parkinson Foundation offers online directory as network expands.
For individuals diagnosed with Parkinson's disease, self-care and education are crucial for dealing with the progression of the disease, and support groups provide an important component for this self-care, according to the National Parkinson Foundation, which is observing Parkinson's Awareness Month in April. Organizations, including Allsup, a national Social Security Disability Insurance representation company, are helping raise awareness about available resources for individuals and their families.
An estimated 1.5 million Americans have the brain disorder, while an estimated 60,000 new cases are diagnosed each year, according to the foundation. As many as one in 15 people are diagnosed with Parkinson's before age 50. Symptoms can vary widely but include tremors, slowness of movement, rigidity, difficulty with balance, muffled speech and other physical limitations.
Support groups provide an important avenue toward learning more about this disease and finding others who can share their experiences in dealing with the brain disorder. There are more than 900 active groups in the National Parkinson Foundation's network.
The foundation provides information about support groups on its Web site, online geographic directory of active support groups. A support group is an informal, self-managed organization of persons with Parkinson's and their caregivers whose purpose is to share information and offer mutual support in a spirit of self-acceptance and education. Are you interested in starting a Parkinson's support group? You can visit www.parkinson.org and click on 'Free Publications' to download the Support Group Leaders Manual.
Depending on a support group's focus, participants may learn about coping and treatment from guest speakers and medical professionals, they may discuss their concerns and life issues, or participate in activities and relaxation techniques to help them cope with the disease. Some groups also provide activities and support for caregivers.
The diagnosis of a degenerative condition such as Parkinson's disease raises obvious fears, but local support groups can help those who are newly diagnosed, including help with decisions about when to stop working and how to provide for their families.
Allsup salutes the National Parkinson Foundation and other organizations across the country whose members are making a difference in the lives of people suffering from this brain disorder.