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  • Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month

Published on April 17, 2013

Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month – April

By Carol Hamvasa
Facilitator for the Yankton Area Parkinson's Support Group

Most people are aware of Parkinson’s Disease (PD). You have a vague idea, don’t you? Someone whose hands shake, voice trembles, who has trouble walking – they have Parkinson’s, right? But, when it is your family member, your friend, or you, with the disease – you become really aware. And, if you have reached that level of awareness, I have one more question for you:

Are you aware that the Yankton area has a Parkinson’s Support Group that meets the second Friday of each month (except December) at 1:30 PM at the Avera Professional Pavilion?

The support group is open to everyone who wants to learn more about PD. It is a good place to get information and hear how others have coped in similar situations, and to be reminded that others understand what is happening to you.

And it’s free – thanks to the generous sponsorship of the Avera Sacred Heart Foundation.

At our meetings, we have up-to-date information about PD, special speakers, a time of sharing – and even refreshments!

There is no known cause for PD. It may run in families or be caused by environmental or workplace conditions. Ruling out other diseases and disorders is the only way to diagnose it, and it’s not uncommon to have PD for years before it is identified and treated.

Since we don’t know the cause, there is no cure. All that can be done is treat the symptoms. The most common symptoms of PD are tremors, a shuffling gait, stooped posture, slow movements, and difficulties with balance. More subtle symptoms include loss of smell, difficulty swallowing, and a softer voice.

Some PD patients develop cognitive changes. Researchers are looking for biomarkers in PET scans of Parkinson’s patients to learn of early cognitive changes so they may be treated promptly.

There is a dementia that affects some PD patients, called Lewy-Body Dementia (LBD). A question has surfaced recently with new research: Is LBD a part of PD, or is LBD the primary disease with PD symptoms?

LBD has symptoms in common with Alzheimer’s, such as behavioral changes, decreased judgment, difficulty following directions, and confusion. However, LBD usually also includes hallucinations of animals and children. Depression is common in both PD and LBD.

It is important for Parkinson’s patients to have a care-partner. If you live alone, that may be a problem. But those with PD need to have someone to notice subtle changes in movements, attitude, and behavior. These care-partners should also be aware of medications and any changes that have taken place, and accompany patients to doctor appointments.

We all know that we often don’t hear every direction a doctor gives, so it is helpful to have another person hear those directions as well. That’s especially true for those with Parkinson’s. As the PD progresses, it becomes ever more important for the care-partner to be informed and to be an advocate for the patient.

Yes, there is much to be aware of when you, or someone you know, has Parkinson’s Disease. Let the Yankton Area Parkinson’s Support Group help you be aware of all the ways we can work together to help each other deal with this disease.

For more information, call Carol Hamvas (605-665-7158).