Two Port Alberni residents hope to form a Parkinson’s disease (PD) support group in the Alberni Valley to help share common experiences and increase awareness of the degenerative disease.
Jan Charlesworth and Linda Nicklin have been attending the Oceanside PD support group in Parksville with their husbands Ted Charlesworth and Ray Nicklin, who are both affected by PD. They all believe a local support group would benefit those in the Valley who are also affected with the disease, along with caregivers and loved ones.
“I feel for me personally, and my husband, going to Parksville has been really supportive,” Jan Charlesworth said. “You realize you’re not alone. We’ve got some really useful ideas and tips and its connected us with the BC Parkinson Society in Vancouver and they have lots of information.”
The goal for the support group, along with raising more awareness about PD, is to educate, comfort, support and embrace the challenge of helping others. Therapists, speech language pathologists, fitness trainers, pharmacists and tax specialists are among the guest speakers that can offer education during support meetings.
“A lot of people have the same problem but are embarrassed to be out with people but when you’re with a support group everyone has pretty much the same problems and you try and make it fun rather than being negative all the time,” Ray Nicklin said, who has been affected with Parkinson’s disease for close to 10 years.
Linda and Jan say they are only in the introduction stage of forming a support group and are looking to see how many people would join the group. The first meeting will be held at 10:30 a.m. at Smitty’s Restaurant on Monday, March 20. Meetings will run the first Monday of each month and the time of day will be open for discussion during the first meeting.
Jan said support groups are great ways to share ideas, especially among the caregivers.
Those interested can contact Linda at 250-723-3755 or Jan at 250-723-8230.
In addition to the support group, another initiative to help those affected by Parkinson’s disease in the Valley is the West Coast Rock Steady Boxing program at Alberni Fitness.
The program was founded in the United States in 2006 with the mission to improve the quality of life for people with Parkinson’s disease through a non-contact boxing based fitness curriculum.
“There’s no medication to stop Parkinson’s…the only thing you can do is exercise to prolong mobility,” Ray said, who has participated in the Parksville boxing program since January. “These mobility classes really help out. I feel younger after every class”
Neil Shipley, Rock Steady trainer, said he’s seen how the boxing program has changed the way people with PD perceive their disease.
“I can see a sense of empowerment on people when they start exercising and boxing.” he said. “Instead of feeling victim all of a sudden they are conqueror. It’s a case of fighting back.”
Tricia Grobell, Rock Steady trainer, said for people with PD, the biggest value is to practice stretching and balancing. She said the first 20 minutes of the class is stretching and about 30 per cent is boxing.
Rock Steady classes will begin March 14, they will run twice a week and will be about 60-80 minute sessions. Prior to joining a class, those interested will need to setup an exercise evaluation with Shipley or Grobell.