Local Parkinson’s chapter helping and educating others
Mayor John Drover was at the council table in Spaniard’s Bay earlier this month signing a proclamation to kick off April as Parkinson’s Awareness month. The provincial Parkinson’s Society in conjunction with the Trinity Conception Parkinson’s Support Group sponsored the April 7 event.
Spaniard’s Bay residents Rosalind and Ron Menchions; June Hunt, chairwoman of the Trinity Conception Chapter of the Parkinson’s Society; John Nicholl, co-chair and Patricia Morrissey, executive director of the Parkinson’s Society Newfoundland and Labrador (PSNL) were also on hand for the signing.
PSNL is the provincial voice of people living with Parkinson’s in the province. Its purpose is to ease the burden and find a cure through research, education, advocacy and support services.
“A lot of things have changed and there is more awareness of Parkinson’s,” said Morrissey. “However there are still a lot of people who don’t understand the disease. We’re using this month to create awareness and understanding.”
Parkinson’s disease ( PD) belongs to a group of conditions called motor system disorders, which are the result of the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells. The disease can cause trembling in hands, arms, legs, jaw, and face, stiffness of the limbs and trunk, or slowness of movement, instability, or poor coordination. As these symptoms become more pronounced, patients may have difficulty walking, talking or completing other simple tasks. Early symptoms of PD are subtle and occur gradually. In some people the disease progresses more quickly than in others. As the disease progresses, the shaking, which affects the majority of PD patients, may begin to interfere with daily activities. Other symptoms may include depression, emotional changes; difficulty in swallowing, chewing, and speaking; urinary problems, constipation, skin problems and sleep disruptions.
There are currently no blood or laboratory tests to confirm whether or not someone has Parkinson’s disease, therefore diagnosis is based on medical history and a neurological examination. Doctors may sometimes request brain scans or laboratory tests in order to rule out other diseases.
Trinity Conception Chairwoman June Hunt and vice chairman John Nicholl say Parkinson’s is a frustrating disease. Hunt’s husband Raymond passed away from complications caused by the disease seven years ago. Nicholl’s wife Theresa was diagnosed with it 15 years ago.
“People can have some of the symptoms for years before they become noticeable,” says Nicholl. “And it usually takes a doctor a long time to diagnose the disease. Sometimes they get it right and sometimes they get it wrong. What makes the disease even more frustrating is that sometimes a person will be able to do something such as reach out and pick up a glass and then a few minutes later they may not be able to. It can be confusing and frightening. Doctors give a diagnosis of Parkinson’s after other conditions are ruled out. Basically it’s a process of elimination whereby doctors determine that it is not some other disease before saying it is Parkinson’s.
Hunt says people are becoming more educated about the disease.
“Gone are the days when people looked as Parkinson’s as being an old person disease,” she says. “It can affect people even as young as 30 or 40, however the average age of onset is 60.”
The April 7 event also provided the opportunity for the Parkinson’s Society to recognize the work of long time volunteer Hazel Worthman of Heart’s Delight-Islington.
“Hazel has been a valued member of the TC group since it was founded in 1992 and has served on the executive as well,” says Hunt. “She has given many hours to helping others affected by the disease.”
“ The efforts of volunteers like Hazel, June and John is vital to the survival of a small charity such as the Parkinson’s Society,” added Morrissey who presented Worthman with a Volunteer of the Year award. “ We wouldn’t be able to exist without them.”
This year marks the twenty-second year of the Parkinson’s chapter in Trinity Conception.
The group provides information and emotional support to people in the area affected by Parkinson’s. Members also attend information sessions and sometimes invite speakers to their meetings, which are held on the second Tuesday of each month from 2 to 4 p.m. in the boardroom of the Interfaith Citizens Home in Carbonear.
According to Hunt the group isn’t just about fundraising or sharing information.
“ We have lots of fun too,” she says. “ We have about 18 members and meetings are held from October to May, but we also get together other times as well such as at Christmas and during the summer. The meetings are both informational and therapeutic because it gives those who want to a chance to sit and talk with someone else who has been affected by the disease. We’re doing everything we can to help and educate others.”
PROCLAMTION SIGNING - Ron Menchions, left and his wife Rosalind of Spanaird’s Bay, look on as the town’s Mayor, John Drover signs the proclamation officially declaring April as Parkinson’s Awareness Month. June Hunt, chairwoman of the Trinity Conception Chapter of the Parkinson’s Society; John Nicholl, co-chair and Patricia Morrissey, executive director of the Parkinson’s Society Newfoundland and Labrador (PSNL) also attended the April 7 event.
DEDICATED VOLUNTEER - Patricia Morrissey, executive director of the Parkinson’s Society Newfoundland and Labrador (PSNL) presents Hazel Worthman of Heart’s Delight-Islington with a Volunteer of the Year award. Worthman has given countless hours to the Trinity Conception chapter of the Newfoundland and Labrador Parkinson’s Society.