Roughly one million Americans suffer from Parkinson’s, which is second to Alzheimer’s as the most prevalent neurodegenerative disease in the world. According to the Parkinson Foundation, Parkinson’s is a progressive disease that causes a gradual loss of the nerve cells in the brain that produce a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine carries signals to the parts of the brain that control movement and coordination. Decreased dopamine levels lead to tremors, slowness, and stiffness of the limbs. Parkinson’s tends to appear in people in their 60s, though symptoms may occur earlier. There is currently no known cause or prevention for this disease.
What to Do if You Suspect Parkinson’s
Some of the indicators of Parkinson’s include tremors when resting, decreased facial expressions, soft speech, dementia, stiffness of the limbs, and generalized slowness. If you suspect that you or a loved one may have Parkinson’s, the first step is to talk to a physician. Some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s mimic those of other conditions, so a neurological examination is needed to confirm the disease.
Coping with a Diagnosis
Being diagnosed with a chronic disease can be stressful and grief-inducing, not only for the patient, but also for family and friends. A good support team can be a great benefit in coping with the diagnosis. Ask questions and learn as much as you can about the disease and what you can do to lessen its effects. Therapy helps many faced with a chronic disease, so consider locating a qualified therapist. Support groups are another helpful option.
The National Parkinson’s Foundation offers a wide variety of educational materials about the disease, including a national helpline for callers to identify resources, locate support groups, and have questions answered by experts. They also offer online seminars, publications, and videos at their website.
Walk Off Parkinson’s
Walk Off Parkinson’s is a free, family-friendly walk and fundraising program held to benefit the Parkinson Foundation of the National Capital Area. This year’s event is September 24, 2017 at Nationals Park in Washington, D.C. More than 1,500 people are expected to attend the program, which includes educational lectures, “ask a therapist” sessions, exercise demonstrations, and a community walk that culminates with a victory lap on the field.
A support group can be very helpful for learning strategies for dealing with the effects of the disease. Support groups are available throughout the country. The Parkinson Foundation of the National Capital Area has a list of support groups in Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.
There are two support groups available in the Frederick area:
3rd Wednesday Monthly at 1 PM
Mt. Pleasant Ruritan Club
8101 Crum Road
Walkersville, MD 21793
Contact: John Kraft, (301) 703-1194
Frederick Young Onset/Newly Diagnosed Support Group
Saturdays vary, 2:30 PM
9020 Amelung Street
Frederick, MD 21704
Contact: Deb Bergstrom, firstname.lastname@example.org or 301-712-5381
National Parkinson Foundation: http://parkinsonfoundation.org
Parkinson’s Disease Foundation: http://www.pdf.org/
Parkinson Foundation of the National Capital Area: http://www.parkinsonfoundation.org/home/index.html