April is National Parkinson’s Awareness Month, and the Parkinson Association of the Rockies continues its efforts to provide critical services to both patients and families
Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological disorder which has a significant social and financial affect. The disease is second only to Alzheimer’s as a degenerative neurological disorder. In the United States it affects more people than the total of those living with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Lou Gehrig’s disease (ALS).
Worldwide there are an estimated 4 million people living with Parkinson’s disease and nearly 1.5 million in the United States with a new case being diagnosed every nine minutes. In Colorado, it’s estimated that 17,000 people have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Though the average age of a person diagnosed with Parkinson’s is 58, the disease is also known to affect people in their 20s, 30s and 40s.
As such, organizations like the Parkinson’s Association of the Rockies have proven to be a resource to the Rocky Mountain community with local branches in Cheyenne, Wyoming and the Yampa Valley Parkinson Support Network in Steamboat Springs. By providing direct care services, including support groups, in-home case assessment and an information hotline to individuals living with Parkinson’s, their families and caregivers, the Parkinson Association of the Rockies has proven to be a community asset.
Benefits of exercise
According to Madison Holland, program director at the Parkinson Association of the Rockies, exercise is one of the primary aspects of treatment for those diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.
“Exercise is the number one thing to put into somebody’s treatment,” Holland said. “We’ve seen incredible results from a lot of our patients who are going to our exercise classes.”
Holland specifically mentioned a power-punch, non-contact boxing class that helps patients with cognition, coordination and leaves patients feeling great long after the class concludes.
Holland added that an array of diverse classes also help to benefit patients, including voice classes.
“One of the symptoms of Parkinson’s is that their voice gets softer,” she said. “They need to practice that, whether it’s through singing or through ‘loud-for-life’ classes.”
The benefits of exercise, according to Holland, are also far reaching.
“Exercise will reduce stiffness and improve mobility,” Holland said. “Posture is another big thing that is a big deal with Parkinson’s and balance and gait.”
Aside from exercise classes, the Parkinson Association of the Rockies also provides its community with online support and over 35 support groups serving communities in Colorado, Nebraska and Wyoming. There are several educational forums that the association participates in.
“We have two main conferences throughout the year, one in the fall and one in the spring,” Holland said. “One is the Colorado Community Conference and that one focuses on all the research going on around Parkinson’s.”
That conference is May 12, while the September conference E3 focuses on educating, empowering and energizing.
“That is done to promote the tips and tricks to thrive with Parkinson’s,” Holland said of the E3 conference.
From a financial standpoint the Parkinson Association of the Rockies reported that Parkinson’s disease costs about $25 billion in the United States each year and the annual cost of one patient’s Parkinson’s-related medications averages $2,500 or more. Therapeutic surgery can cost up to $100,000.
To help ease financial burdens, organizations like the Parkinson Association of the Rockies have an equipment loan program, which allows patients to access walkers and transfer chairs on loan rather than having to make an expensive purchase. The program also informs users about grant programs and insurance reimbursement to cover the cost of buying proper equipment when it becomes essential.
As for demographic research, Executive Director of the Parkinson Association of the Rockies, Jodi Brown stated that statistical data based on ethnicity, race or gender is not readily available.
For more information on Parkinson’s including symptoms, stages and treatment options, as well as community-related services within Colorado, visit www.parkinsonrockies.org.