Parkinson support group set to start

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By Lisa King

"Everyone has a thorn in the side," said Shelbyville resident Alton Webb. "Parkinson happens to be mine."

What Webb describes as a "thorn" in his side is Parkinson's Disease--a chronic, progressive, neurological disorder, symptoms of which include hand tremor, slowness of movement, limb stiffness, and difficulty with gait and balance.

A thorn indeed.

Even though there is no cure for this disease, there is medication that can help somewhat with treating some of the symptoms of the disease, which can be very debilitating.

But good news is on the horizon for Shelbyville residents like Webb who are afflicted with this condition.

A Parkinson's support group will begin later this month at Jewish Hospital Shelbyville.

The support group will meet once and month, and what's more, an exercise class, created just for Parkinson's patients, will meet once a week.

Vicki Stanley, director of the Parkinson Support Center of Kentuckiana in Louisville, said the group's first meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 16, will be a discussion of the disease and the goals and intentions of the support group and the combined exercise class.

"Our first meeting will be an overview of Parkinson and details of our program and what we have to offer," she said. "Also, our instructor is adapting her Yoga to Parkinson's patients, and our role is to get that going. Then, they (group members) will take turns heading the group."

Dyna Zehnder, a Shelbyville resident who has been teaching Yoga for five years, said when she was approached about teaching an exercise class for Parkinson's patients, the idea really appealed to her.

"I could totally see the need for it, and when I was asked to do it, I began right away to research the disease so I could develop techniques designed especially for them," she said.

Zehnder said the exercises she is developing for the group are designed to help participants with flexibility and balance, two things that Parkinson's sufferers have trouble with. She added that she is aware that several people may be in wheelchairs, so she has adapted her exercise program to allow people to do the exercises while seated.

She has named the class, "Moving on."

"It will be a gentle movement class combining yoga, tai chi, breathing and voice control to help those living with Parkinson's Disease," she said. "The class will be open to all people with Parkinson's and we will have occasional classes with their caregivers or close family as well. The vision I have is to create a safe place for this population to practice without judgement or competition."

She expanded on what she means by this last statement.

"A beneficial thing for people is that I realize that we may have incidents of tremors or of a limb freezing up now and then," she said. "And when that happens, we can deal with that and it will be OK. People won't have to worry about being embarrassed about it or about it stopping them from participating. They will be with their peers, and everybody will understand. My hope is that it will be support group where they can come to love and to be loved."

Webb said his desire to participate in an exercise program tailored just for people with his condition is to be able to stay active, something that is very important to him.

"It is very important to me to keep moving," he said. "I work every day at our real estate and construction company. I still take care of my own yard work and landscaping and I teach a weekly Sunday School Bible Study at First Baptist Church and I play with grandchildren, who are a great way to keep moving. But even with all that, I still need a weekly exercise program."

Holly Hudson, director of public relations at Jewish Hospital, said the hospital is happy to host the support group and exercise class.

"It just makes sense to hold it here, because we can provide some excellent speakers from Frazier Rehab, and some of them have pioneered some wonderful treatments for Parkinson patients," she said. She added that Frazier Rehab, located at the hospital, has partnered with the University of Louisville to create a Movements Disorder Program designed especially for people with these types of ailments.

The support group will be offered every third Tuesday of the month and the exercise group will be held every Monday night. Both the support group and the exercise class will be held at 6:30 p.m.

Webb said two things that are very important for Parkinson's patients are encouragement and accountability.

"When we get depressed, we want to give up and quit," he said. "But if you do, soon you won't be able to move or walk at all and the support group will help, because you'll be with people who understand what you're going through. Sometimes we just need a friend."

For more information, call 633-7439.