NWPF

News ArchivesRead News

Learning to live with Parkinson’s

Thursday April 28, 2005

WENDY ISOM

Apr 25 2005(Jacksonsun.com) - When Jane Wolfe was first diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, she felt isolated.

’’I didn’t know anyone else with Parkinson’s,’’ the 67-year-old said. So, ’’I thought it would be great to have a support group,’’ said Wolfe, who formerly worked as a professional advocate for people with disabilities in the state of Tennessee. Parkinson’s disease is a progressive brain disorder characterized by physical signs that sometimes mimic a stroke survivor.

Wolfe, who is being treated at Vanderbilt’s Movement Disorder Clinic, lives in Jackson.

Last fall, Wolfe called the Jackson-Madison County General Hospital to inquire about getting a support group started.

She was directed to Anita Roark, the rehab marketing manager for the West Tennessee Rehab Center. Roark has helped to set up other support groups in the community.

They sent out a survey to people who have been identified as having some symptoms of Parkinson’s. After receiving responses, they set up a time and place to meet.

The first meeting was held in a small room at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital. ’’Honestly, we thought we might get seven or eight people,’’ Roark said of the attendees for the first meeting that was held in March.

But, Roark said she and Wolfe were pleasantly surprised when ’’we outgrew our meeting room the first night.’’ There were 21 who showed up in all. They were not all people with Parkinson’s disease. There were caregivers and family members and health professionals who also attended.

’’It’s a wonderful mix of people,’’ Roark said, adding that the group is diverse in age. There are people from their 30s to their 70s. Eventually, there are plans to have a meeting for caregivers once or twice a year. ’’Caregivers face a lot of different issues than people who have the disease,’’ Roark said.

People with Parkinson’s disease can experience tremors in their hands, arms, legs, jaws and face. Sometimes, they will also have a slow shuffle in their gait.

Wolfe notes it is ironic that she was already familiar with resources for people with disabilities before she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

For Wolfe, she said: ’’I started noticing a tremor first in my left arm. The only time it was still was when I was asleep.’’

First, tests were run to see if she had a mini-stroke.

’’By the time you get the symptoms, it’s pretty well established,’’ Wolfe said of the disease. Wolfe, who tires easily, had to get an electric wheelchair.

The cause of Parkinson’s is unknown, and there is currently no cure.

’’While the condition usually develops after the age of 65, 15 percent of those diagnosed are under age 50,’’ according to the National Parkinson Foundation.

’’They don’t know how a person gets Parkinson’s,’’ Wolfe said, adding that ’’it can be hereditary, drug induced or environmental.’’

Still, Wolfe is optimistic about the future of Parkinson’s treatment.

’’There’s hope in new medication,’’ she said, adding that the controversial debate for stem cell research will affect Parkinson’s patients as well.

Stem cell therapy, which is not allowed in the United States right now, is said to help people with a wide range of incurable diseases, including spinal cord injuries and Parkinson’s.

’’The Parkinson’s people will argue for the stem cell research,’’ she said.

To help her with her stamina, Wolfe goes to aquatherapy three times a week.

Exercising in heated water is very therapeutic for her. She also is on medication for Parkinson’s.

Wolfe has two adult children and an adult grandson. Her children, she said, are her caregivers. She also has three adoring pets: Mack, a Westie terrier, and two Siamese cats, Simon and Pooh.

Although Parkinson’s is incurable, it’s not fatal, the 67-year-old said. It takes some adjusting to, but Wolfe said it is possible to stay active. ’’I drive the car still, and I can go shopping.’’

Recent News

May 20 - Book Review: Aging in the Key of Humor
May 19 - Press Release: The Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research Joins Multinational Critical Path for Parkinson's Consortium
May 19 - Congress reaches deal to overhaul chemical regulation
May 16 - Lifestyle: Why Parkinson's disease won't stop me rowing across the Pacific
May 16 - Many biomarkers for PD fail to inform on progression
May 10 - Parkinson's Cell Transplant Shows Good Reinnervation at 24 Years
May 7 - Growing art installation gathers stories of living with Parkinson's
May 5 - New technique can provide better cell transplants against Parkinson's disease
May 2 - What's Good For The Heart Is Good For The Brain
Apr 29 - Press Release: FDA approves first drug to treat hallucinations and delusions associated with Parkinson’s disease
Apr 28 - Dopamine-making neurons can be chemically controlled in animal model of Parkinson's
Apr 25 - Lifestyle: Dating with Disease
Apr 25 - Scientific breakthrough in fight against Parkinson's and Alzheimer's
Apr 20 - Breakthrough Parkinson's disease blood test
Apr 15 - Living with Parkinson's
Apr 12 - Tissue biomarker for dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease
Apr 11 - Yoga for Every Body: Experts say yoga can ease pain and improve mobility for people with neurologic conditions
Apr 9 - Commonly prescribed Parkinson's drugs up risk of compulsive gambling, shopping, binge eating, hypersexuality
Apr 7 - Pfizer and IBM Launch Innovative Research Project to Transform Parkinson's Disease Care
Apr 7 - Parkinson's Drug Highly Effective for Resistant Depression