Tuesday, April 5, 2011

News-Press Guest Opinion

Love and knowledge improve life with Parkinson's disease

Two years ago, Joann Bacheller thought she was losing her husband Charles; their marriage of many years seemed to be coming apart. "He wasn't listening to me anymore," she told us. "Charles was always the decision-maker, and then he just seemed to lose interest. There wasn't even any expression on his face when he looked at me."

Joanne thought that Charles had fallen out of love - until he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. "We realized that everything I was seeing in Charles were symptoms. He couldn't show facial expressions or make decisions, and had difficulty gathering thoughts in the course of a conversation."

The love was still there and after joining the Hope Parkinson Program, Joanne quickly learned that as the spouse of someone with Parkinson's she must be the care partner, not the care giver. "Charles must continue to live his own life. It won't help if I just try to do everything for him. I give him my support - and my love," she said.

Today, the Bachellers can often be found in each other's arms on the dance floor. They enjoy the foxtrot, the tango and swing dancing - excellent therapeutic activities for Parkinson's - offered through the Hope Parkinson Program.

More than 750 people have been touched by the program - the only Lee County-based Parkinson support program. Many of them have stories like the Bachellers'.

In designating April as Parkinson's Awareness Month, the U.S. Senate recognized that Parkinson's disease is one of the most common neurodegenerative diseases in the country. There is no cure. But there is always hope.

The National Parkinson Foundation projects that one of every 100 Americans age 60 and above will be diagnosed with Parkinson's. According to pharmaceutical companies, Lee County has the highest usage of Parkinson medication in the Southeast.

Movement becomes increasingly challenging as the disease progresses. Exercise and balance classes can help to improve mood, keep muscles strong, and improve flexibility and mobility in order to reduce the risk of falls. As the Bachellers will attest, ongoing education is also essential for those with Parkinson's and their care partners.

The Hope Parkinson Program provides resources and classes at no cost, to meet specific goals:

- Improve the quality of life for those living with Parkinson's disease and their care partners

- Slow the progression of Parkinson's disease by engaging the mind, body, and spirit in therapeutic activities

If you or someone you love has Parkinson's, there is hope. To learn more about the Hope Parkinson Program, please visit our website at hopeparkinson.org.