April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disease that affects the part of the brain that controls muscle movement. As many as 2,000 Delaware residents may suffer from the disease. Currently there is no definitive clinical test for diagnosing Parkinson’s, and many people experience symptoms for several years before receiving a diagnosis. Symptoms vary but can include tremors, rigidity, slow movement and gait, poor balance, soft talking, a loss of sense of smell, small handwriting, cognitive impairment, difficulty swallowing, and frozen facial expression.
The Parkinson’s Education and Support Group of Sussex County provides people with Parkinson’s and their caregivers with knowledge and tools to help combat the disease. At monthly support group meetings, guest speakers discuss therapy and exercise, medications for Parkinson’s, maintaining quality of life, and other related topics. Members also facilitate two small group meetings each month, one in Seaford and one in Ocean View. There is a monthly caregivers’ meeting as well as a meeting open only to people with Parkinson’s. A variety of social events and fundraising opportunities are also held throughout the year.
One of the primary goals of the group is to raise public awareness through education. To accomplish this, the group has conducted seminars and programs designed to educate local community members and health professionals, ultimately leading to more positive experiences for those with Parkinson’s disease when hospitalized or receiving some sort of medical treatment.
Many doctors are recommending that, upon diagnosis, people with Parkinson’s attend physical therapy, followed by an exercise regimen designed to help with slow gait, muscle rigidity and other symptoms. The group currently sponsors a dozen weekly exercise classes specifically designed for people with Parkinson’s and other movement disorders. Classes are offered in Rehoboth Beach, Georgetown, Ocean View and Long Neck.
New this past year, the group partnered with a local speech-language pathologist to bring the Loud Crowd program to Sussex County. Developed by the Parkinson Voice Project, the Loud Crowd is a weekly group speech therapy program designed to continue strengthening a Parkinson’s patient’s voice following speech therapy. The program in Sussex County is administered by speech-language pathologist Michele Poynton-Marsh. Her Loud Crowd program is currently the only one in Delaware.
Anyone who has Parkinson’s, cares for a loved one with the disease, or just wants more information is encouraged to attend one of the group’s monthly meetings on the first Monday of the month at the Lutheran Church of Our Savior, 20276 Bay Vista Road, Rehoboth Beach. The group begins with an exercise class at 1 p.m., followed by guest speaker at 2 p.m. For more information including the current exercise schedule, go to www.sussexparkinsons.com.