Help available for people dealing with Parkinson’s disease

Guest editorial

April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month. Parkinson’s disease, or PD, is a chronic, progressive neurological disorder that cannot be cured but can be effectively controlled for many years through medication, rehabilitative therapies and, in some cases, surgery.

The primary symptoms are tremor at rest, slowness of movement, rigidity, and problems with balance. lt affects approximately 2 percent of the population older than 60, or about 30,000 people in Michigan. Five to 10 percent of those with PD are younger than 50.

The Parkinson’s Society of Dickinson County Area, the support group for people with Parkinson’s disease along with their caregivers, family and friends, has been meeting monthly for almost five years in the local area. Each meeting provides informational programs and materials about Parkinson’s disease for those who are affected. Attendance at these meetings range from two people to 20, and more than 100 at each of the three symposiums. Although the group has connected with many people in the local area, many more in the community and surrounding area have not been reached.

The purpose of the support group is to provide information, support and fellowship to those affected by this disorder. Speakers come to discuss ways to cope and to develop positive attitudes to combat the effects of Parkinson’s disease. They share ideas and suggestions of activities to make living with PD more manageable. It is their wish that those who attend will take away some helpful ideas and suggestions so those affected can have a more productive and manageable life.

There no diagnostic tests to determine PD, so it can be difficult to get an accurate diagnosis. The cause of PD is, as yet, unknown. Numerous research advances have been made in recent years, with the advent of different medications and procedures.

Little has been said about PD and the people it affects until recently, when people in the public eye — such as Michael J. Fox, Alan Alda, Janet Reno and Muhammad Ali — have come to the forefront.

By putting the focus on Parkinson’s disease awareness this month, the public can become aware of this condition and the resources that are available to help right here in our own backyard. Assistance and information also is available from the Michigan Parkinson Foundation for those who need it.

Many thanks go to those in our community and area who have donated to our local symposiums or helped in any way to assist others to cope with this frustrating disease.

For more information about the local support group or the Michigan Parkinson Foundation, call 906-774-0332.