Exercise the key to living with Parkinson’s Disease

Sidney’s Jill Carson was diagnosed with PD in 2007 and had to stop work as a physiotherapist in 2009.

Sidney’s Jill Carson demonstrates some of the yoga movements that can be beneficial for people with Parkinson’s Disease.

When Dr. Becky Farley recently appeared at the Greenglade Community Centre, the message was clear: those people living with Parkinson’s Disease and Parkinsonism can improve their lives through exercise.

Farley is the CEO and founder of the non-profit organization, Parkinson Wellness Recovery/PWR. She is a trainer and advocate for the benefits of large amplitude high effort postures and exercises for those afflicted with the both diseases. In fact she has pioneered PWR/Moves, a program specifically designed for that purpose.

That’s a program fully embraced by Sidney’s Jill Carson. She was diagnosed with PD in 2007 and had to stop work as a physiotherapist in 2009. But the onset of the disease led Carson to Dr. Farley’s work and a short time later she was certified as an instructor for Farley’s program.

Carson has also become an advocate for others with PD and Parkinsonism. For example, she recently returned from Brussels where she was part of a documentary film production that dealt with some issues related to PD.

Carson has also become an ambassador to the World Parkinson’s Congress (the next event is in Portland in 2016). But, according to Carson, her most satisfying achievement has been her work in establishing the ParkinGo Wellness Society, based in Sidney and Victoria.

It’s a group, all living with PD, that exercises together at Greenglade Community Centre in Sidney and at St. Nicholas Parish in Victoria.

“The benefits of the program are amazing,” said Carson. “The exercises have a huge effect on slowing the progression of the disease and reducing the symptoms. We have people who have been able to reduce their medications by half … and there’s one fellow who can drive his car again. It’s fantastic.”

Carson said the program runs three days a week at both locations and interest in the group has exploded.

“We had less than 20 members in February and now we are up to 68. The message is out there that people with PD can do something to make their lives better. It doesn’t have to be the end of life.”

Recently the group added a program called YOGADOPA — a program led by another graduate of Farley’s program, Dr. Katelyn Roland. YOGADOPA incorporates special yoga moves for those with PD.

“She does measurements of progress every three months and has seen some amazing improvements among participants,” said Carson. “We are so lucky to have her as part of our team.

“The programs are so great because we are all in the same position. In the past, people who suffered from PD were unlikely to venture out because of embarrassment about their tremors and movements and it kept them isolated and depressed. Suicides were common. But when we get together we encourage and push each other and no one is embarrassed … we’re all in the same boat. We laugh a lot.”

Carson said the ParkinGo Society has been incorporated as an official non-profit organization and is looking toward its next steps to improving its program.

“There really is nothing out there right now and while we’re thankful for the use of the facilities that we have … it could be so much better. The need is out there.”

And that need is projected to increase enormously. There are currently an estimated 100,000 Canadians with PD but, according to Carson, it is estimated that an aging population could double that number by 2030.

“People with PD have been ignored for far too long. We need to address the need now.”

Details on Carson’s organization as well as advice on joining the group can be found at www.parkingo.org.

 

[Parkinson’s Disease (PD) and Parkinsonism display the same symptoms. Yet, according to Jill Carson, only about 15 per cent of those with these symptoms have true PD; a disease that shows a faster progression than what is seen in Parkinsonism patients. For the purposes of this article, the term PD was used to describe both groups.]