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What I Have Learned about Parkinson’s, Personally and Professionally

By Michelle N. Goldberg

Parkinson’s Disease, also referred to as Parkinson’s or PD, is a chronic neurologic condition that often causes difficulty with movement, coordination, and motor symptoms. Because different parts of the brain can be affected, other symptoms can occur which can include constipation, dementia, anxiety, depression, and sleep disturbance.

Both my father and father-in-law lived with Parkinson’s and lived WELL with it for many years. My father, diagnosed at the age of 59, lived with the disease for about 23 years. Both men found comfort and support from sharing their experiences with each other and exchanging tips and tricks they had learned throughout their journeys. Seeing how they were affected as their disease progressed, it became clear how crucial it is to find support and create a care team of people who can provide practical, physical, and emotional support. This can include your doctors, therapists, neighbors, friends, and family. Community support groups are also beneficial.

Professionally, I spent several years creating educational programs and facilitating support groups for people newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s. I currently facilitate a monthly virtual support group for people living with Parkinson’s as part of my work at JCS (Jewish Communication Services).

While living with PD can be challenging, there are many things you can do to maintain and improve your quality of life and to live well with Parkinson’s Disease. Support, socialization and exercise are very important to living well with PD. Many patients with Parkinson’s see doctors called Movement Disorders Specialists. These doctors are neurologists that have additional, specialized training. Many of these docs offer educational lectures through local Parkinson’s organizations geared towards the people with the disease and their care partners.

Every Parkinson’s doctor I have encountered has offered these three words to patients with PD, “exercise, exercise, exercise,” and usually add, “the best exercise is the one you will do!” Exercise is essential to managing PD symptoms. It helps with balance, flexibility, and mobility and can also reduce symptoms of depression and constipation. There is a tremendous amount of in-person and virtual exercise classes specifically for people with Parkinson’s in the local Baltimore community.

Being diagnosed with Parkinson’s can be frightening and the onset of symptoms can be frustrating and difficult. It takes time to adjust and find support. Please feel free to reach out for more information about local resources and the groups offered by Jewish Community Services: “Living with Parkinson’s Disease,” which is for individuals who have been diagnosed with the disease, and “When Your Loved One has Parkinson’s,” which is for their care partners. Both groups provide participants with support and opportunities to have meaningful conversations about the impact the disease has on their lives.  Welcoming, supporting groups like these can become part of your personal care team and help you live well.

Michelle N. GoldbergMichelle Neufeld Goldberg, LCSW-C is the Senior Manager for Community Engagement and Partnerships.

Jewish Community Services (JCS) provides programs and services for people of all ages and backgrounds, helping them achieve their goals, enhance their wellbeing, and maximize their independence. To learn more, visit jcsbalt.org or call 410-466-9200.

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