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ST. MARYS — While the rest of the world may make resolutions to get better every January, Michelle Evans encourages patients and spouses at the first meeting of the year of the St. Marys Parkinson’s Support Group to set a goal to maintain what they have.
“To stay the same is huge,” said Evans, co-coordinator of the group.
Parkinson’s disease is a motor system disorder linked to having too little dopamine in the brain, causing shakiness or stiffness, balance problems, and difficulty walking or talking. There’s no cure for the disease but there are medicines that help with the symptoms. Parkinson’s is present in approximately 8 percent of people 50 or older, 13 percent of people 70 or older, and 16 percent of people 80 or older. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, some experts believe that numbers are higher due to undetected cases, and that almost every person would develop the disease if they lived long enough.
While those numbers may normalize the disease, out in the world Parkinson’s patients encounter troubles, patients in the support group say, or misunderstandings about their conditions. Slurred speech and loss of muscle control can cause police to believe the patients are drunk.
When patients get properly medicated there’s a period of time after they take the medicine that co-coordinator Linda Dicke called “on time,” where their muscle control and speech improve significantly before the medicine wears off.
For the patients in the group, support is key. Every patient in the group Monday came with a spouse that helps manage the condition.
The next stage of the support is having the support of the group. The group shares information about doctors, personal stories, and different treatments they undergo.
Mary Honigford said she felt like the doctor she and her husband had recently seen was encouraging them to use their own judgments to come to conclusions about his health.
They also shared a kind of physical therapy that had improved his walking.
While many exercises and information address the physical symptoms of Parkinson’s, the patients are also worried about the mental deterioration that can occur.
When Evans went online to find exercises to improve mental functioning for the patients, however, she said there was very little she could find.
She brought to Monday’s meeting games that she said are popular with seniors at the Auglaize County Council on Aging, including Scattergories and hidden picture puzzles. Crosswords, Words with Friends, and Sudoku were also suggested as brain boosters.
“When we share with each other, each one helps the other. We relate to each other’s issues,” Honigford said.
Extending beyond the reach of the group, however, Honigford said when she’s in public helping her husband she’s surprised by the support of the community once people understand the difficulties she’s having.
“It’s amazing how many doors people open,” she said, literally meaning that people hold open the door as she helps her husband through it. “That makes it so much more friendly.”
The Parkinson’s support group meets at 2 p.m. every third Monday of the month at Joint Township District Memorial Hospital in St. Marys.