Davis Phinney Foundation, Must Read, Parkinson's Disease, Parkinson's exercise, Parkinson's Patient Care, Support Groups, Uncategorized

Four Steps To Revive PD Communities

Ed Note: The following blog is the work of Melanie Dizon of the Davis Phinney (Parkinson’s) Foundation. It is the first concrete plan I have seen that addresses restoration of social connections in Pandemic-stressed, Parkinson’s communities. Hats off to  Mel and her colleagues for a wonderful, just-in-time plan of action.

 

In the beginning, it was kind of fun, right? Or at least interesting.

You learned how to connect with your family and friends online.

Your Rock Steady Boxing coach, Dance for PD®  teacher, and your Pedaling For Parkinson’s™ instructor came through the internet and right to your living room or home gym for a safe workout.

You may have even tried out a new skill, picked up a long-ago loved hobby, or took up a new sport while you followed “stay-at-home” orders.

You even listened to those who said, “You can live well with Parkinson’s at a distance”, especially your doctors who you may have “seen” and spoken to even more lately because of the magic of telemedicine. (If we can keep and build on one thing from this crisis, can we please make it access to telemedicine for all!)

Fortunately, in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, you did continue to live well with Parkinson’s. You made a commitment to it. You promised yourself you would do it. And you vowed that nothing was going to get in your way.

But, nine or 10 weeks ago, you couldn’t know how much you’d miss hugs from your boxing mates, a fist bump from your cycling buddy after you survived a tough climb, or the knowing nod and the tell-tale creasing of the eyes when someone who truly gets you returns a smile. You may have suspected, but you never had to test out how important those physical connections are to living well with Parkinson’s.

Now you know.

And Zoom support group calls, YouTube videos, and online group exercise classes are starting to wear on you. And despite their widespread availability, so much so that you could fill your day with them if you wanted to, they are exactly no substitute for the in-real-life connections you crave.

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve had more time than ever to check in with our Parkinson’s community and listen to them talk about their experiences and challenges. Without a doubt, the challenges that come from not being able to be in the same room together are at the top of the list.

So, while we know that we aren’t out of the woods yet, and that some of these online solutions will likely be with us for a while, we wanted to share four simple things you can do to feed your need and longing for in-person connections today.

(Note: Please check with your medical and care teams before you try any of these out.)

#1 – Find a walking/running buddy to add to your pod

While enclosed spaces have shown to be breeding grounds for the virus, recreating at a safe distance outdoors is fine for many people. Consider reaching out to a Parkinson’s buddy who enjoys walking or running, and who you know has been abiding by their state and CDC regulations, and schedule a daily or weekly run/walk and talk with them. Wear your masks, keep six feet apart, and have fun.

 

#2 – Have a coffee date in a parking lot

Missing a friend from your support group you haven’t seen in over two months? Invite them to coffee at a nearby school parking lot. Bring your own cup of joe and a mask, park at a safe distance, and either grab a seat on your hoods or bring some chairs so you can chat and catch up.

#3 – Pack a picnic

Invite members of your favorite exercise class to a picnic at a large park. Mark off squares that are six feet apart in all directions and have people set up blankets or mats on each square. Eat, stretch, play a question game, etc.

 

#4 – Play music, sing, meditate, draw, make

Do you have some Parkinson’s friends who play instruments, love to sing, are avid meditators, or just love to make things? Gather in a wide-open outdoor space with your favorite “tools” and see what happens. Sometimes just being in the presence of others you care about, even if you’re not doing the same thing, even if you’re not talking, is all you need to feel connected. Sometimes, it’s simply the shared desire to connect and seeing other people show up for you that’s all you need to start feeling like yourself again.

Not everyone will feel safe getting out in these ways. And as we said before, your care teams should sign off on this as they know your specific situation better than anyone. But, if you do get the all-clear, these are four easy to do but very meaningful ways of connecting in real life, for now.

Davis Phinney Foundation, Parkinson's Disease, Parkinson's Patient Care

PD Call To Action For Middle Georgia

Middle Georgia has the assets to become a model of excellence for the care of Parkinson’s disease sufferers. Our challenge is to mesh those assets into a true system.

April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month. An important awareness point is how little information patients often receive at diagnosis.

All too frequently, they get a prescription and are told to return in three months for a follow up consultation.

That’s it.

There is little guidance offered patients on finding valid information about the dread neurological condition or their future with it. Plus, there is no PD care system for them to enter.

Patients are left alone, very alone, with their incurable but treatable malady

PD is an ultimately unknowable condition. Each case is unique to the person. Mine is mostly internal, not readily visible. (intestinal, urinary, equilibrium, balance, temperature control)

I was diagnosed in 2014, eight or more years after, in retrospect, my first symptoms appeared. It often requires destruction of 70-80% of dopamine-producing neurons in the brain for full-blown Parkinson’s to manifest itself.

Dopamine is the chemical that aids nerves communicate with muscles, a kind of body-produced WD40.

The numbers about Parkinson’s incidence are approximations. One million cases in the U.S. Seven million worldwide. Fifty thousand new cases a year in the U.S.

Second most common neurological disorder after Alzheimer’s. Incidence is forecast to double in the next 20 years.

Georgia natives and residents are particularly at risk.

Agent Orange is a known causal agent. Georgia has large numbers of veterans who served in Vietnam and were exposed to Agent Orange.

Certain agricultural chemicals are also linked to PD. We are a rural, agricultural state.

A key answer and action step is to strengthen the teamwork between family doctors who diagnose PD and expert neurologists who prescribe a treatment plan.

Equally challenging is the lack of a care system for patients to enter for guidance and assistance in making necessary lifestyle improvements. Those include diet, exercise, social engagement and mental discipline.

We can pool the university, health-care-organization and foundation assets we have in Middle Georgia and create our own ”system” of care.

Doing both would move us to the front rank of states doing well by citizens who are fighting back against their enigmatic malady.

An important marker of a state’s vigor in PD treatment, for me, is the availability of an acclaimed exercise program named Rock Steady Boxing (RSB).

Florida has 32 RSB franchises. North Carolina 19. Tennessee 9. South Carolina 7. Alabama 6.

Until recently, Georgia had but one, in northwest Atlanta. Savannah and August are recent additions.

That’s unacceptable.

Georgia could vault to the front rank by strengthening the ties between family physicians and expert neurologists and by creating an effective, after-diagnosis care system.

Let’s start doing both.

Today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Davis Phinney Foundation, Must Read, National Parkinson's Foundation, Palliative Care, Parkinson's Disease, Parkinson's Patient Care, Uncategorized

Heads Up Middle Georgia! Your patient-care problems are revealed.

Listen Up Middle Georgia!

We have important work to do assisting people “Live Well With Their Parkinson’s.”

Thirteen Parkinson’s people — patients and care partners— recounted their journeys to students at the Mercer School of Medicine Tuesday, March 6.

Bottom line: The Thirteen got scarce information at diagnosis about the disease or their future with it. Plus, there was no PD care system for them to enter.

They were left alone, very alone, with their incurable but treatable malady

Parkinson’s is the second most prevalent neurological disease after Alzheimer’s. Incidence is forecast to double in the next 20 years.

Georgia natives and residents are particularly at risk.

Agent Orange is a known causal agent. Georgia has large numbers of veterans who served in Vietnam and were exposed to Agent Orange.

Certain agricultural chemicals are also linked to PD. We are a rural, agricultural state.

A key answer and action step is to strengthen the teamwork between family doctors who diagnose PD and expert neurologists who prescribe a treatment plan.

Equally challenging is the lack of a care system for patients to enter for guidance and assistance in making necessary lifestyle improvements. Those include diet, exercise, social engagement and mental discipline.

We can pool the university and health-care-organization assets we have in Middle Georgia and create our own ”system” of care.

Doing both would move us to the front rank of states doing well by citizens who are fighting back against their enigmatic malady.

An important marker of a state’s vigor in PD treatment is the availability of an acclaimed exercise program named Rock Steady Boxing (RSB).

Florida has 32 RSB franchises; North Carolina 19; Tennessee 9; South Carolina 7; Alabama 6.

Until recently, Georgia had but one, in northwest Atlanta. Savannah and August are recent additions.

That’s unacceptable.

Georgia could vault to the front rank by strengthening the ties between family physicians and expert neurologists and by creating an effective, after-diagnosis care “system.”

Let’s start doing both.

Today.