Parkinsons Support Group in Somerset County focuses on education

January 20, 2019

Receiving the diagnosis of having a disease is always devastating not only to the patient, but the patient’s family as well.

That’s why the Parkinson’s Disease Support Group of Somerset County is stepping in to offer help and education about the disease.

And cookies.

Lindsey Sharbaugh is the group facilitator. She is a physical therapist at MRS Physical Therapy in Rockwood.

“After I got certification, I asked the facilitator if I could help out,” she said. “I’ve developed an affection for those with Parkinson’s disease and want to help them prepare to know what to look for and how to get help.”

The goal of the group is to educate and support those affected by Parkinson’s disease, whether it be individuals, family members or caregivers, she said.

“We have guest speakers that present on a variety of topics including elder law, caregiving tips, physical, speech and occupational therapy, diet, new drugs, Parkinson’s disease symptoms and what to expect with progression of disease,” she said.

The group is affiliated with the Western Pennsylvania Parkinson’s Disease Foundation.

Glenn and Deb Rhodes of Rockwood are two of the members of the group.

“I come for the Christmas cookies,” Glenn said with a laugh.

The group meets from 1 to 3 p.m. the last Thursday of every other month starting in February, in the community connection room across from the snack bar at Somerset Hospital.

“The group helps you plan for the future,” said Deb. “Retirement planning is up front and serious. You have to be proactive. Glenn is the most proactive guy for prevention I know. The group gives information on planning opportunities for prevention. Glenn coped with it so well and that really helps. He’s an inspiration.”

Parkinson’s disease is a neurodegenerative disease or a movement disorder. There is no known cause or cure for Parkinson’s disease, and treatment is expensive.

Approximately one million people have Parkinson’s disease in the U.S. and there are around 50,000 new cases diagnosed each year, according to Parkinson’s disease information supplied by the group. Parkinson’s affects mostly men. Most patients are middle-aged.

“Parkinson’s is a lot like a small child trying to eat Cheerios,” Glenn said. “The fine motor skills are affected in the beginning — one side of the body only. Then as time goes by, it moves into the other side. Parkinson’s is sneaky stuff. Having a good spouse helps.”

“And Lindsey helps too,” Deb said with a smile. “The group prepares you to know what to look for and when is the time to get therapy. It helps for planning to prepare for the future.”

Doctors look for four classic symptoms of the disease: tremors, rigidity in the wrist and elbow joints, lack or slowness of movement and an unstable posture. There are medications that can help patients with the symptoms. Patients can also undergo deep brain stimulation where electrical current is used to help block tremors and other movement symptoms of the disease.

Glenn had the deep brain stimulation procedure done to treat his Parkinson’s symptoms.

“The trembling stopped immediately,” he said.

“We have some of the best neurologists in Western Pennsylvania,” Deb said. “The Parkinson’s Disease Support Group is where we learned the information we needed to choose a doctor.

“It’s an excellent group because we have access to the support of others who are going through the same thing,” she said. ”“It’s an excellent opportunity for a source of information and education.”

“There is a real wealth of information that a person needs,” Glenn said. “Some things people do right. Some things they do wrong. You have to watch your medications and exercise. There are stretching and balancing things to do.”

Information gathered at the Parkinson’s Support Group meetings include tips for exercising daily, LSVT BIG, Vitamin B12, getting the most out of your doctor appointments, medication management, facts about Parkinson’s disease, impaired emotional expression and recognition, and common sense approach to chronic illness.

“It is an uplifting, round group discussion,” Sharbaugh said. “People can talk freely. We’re connecting with each other. People laugh and smile. They connect, support, share information and give people something to go on.

“We want to create awareness of what we are,” she said. “We’re here to help.”

Call her at 814-926-3099 or email at lm.sharbaugh@mrsphysicaltherapy.com. The Facebook page is Somerset County Parkinson’s Support Group.

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