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Speaker urges Parkinson's patients to seek resources

Thursday December 11, 2008

SalisburyPost.com - "Do what you can to hold on to you." That was the final word of advice Tuesday to the local Parkinson's support group from a specialist in the field.

Adele D'Alli is a masters-level social worker who works at the Duke University Movement Disorders Center. D'Alli has worked specifically with Parkinson's patients and their caregivers since 2003.

About 30 people who live with Parkinson's attended the meeting, held in the Fellowship Hall at First Presbyterian Church. They participated in an interactive discussion on living with the disease.

Her message Tuesday touched on practical steps as well as encouragement for those living with Parkinson's. She identified external resources and internal resources for coping.

Examples of external resources include meeting with elder-law attorneys to help plan for the patients' care and finances as the disease progresses; seeking physical therapy as movement becomes difficult; investigating respite care so caregivers can avoid burnout; and exercising to retain mobility as long as possible.

Internal resources are those tools people use to deal with any crisis in their lives. These include family and church support, networks of friends, faith, self-education to increase one's understanding of the illness, a sense of humor and serving others. Serving others is key to maintaining a sense of independence, dignity and self-esteem.

During the question-and-answer session, one member asked D'Alli what advice she would give the group.

"Parkinson's is very individual," she replied. "Do everything you can to hold on to who you are," she said.

Parkinson's is a motor system disorder. Its classic symptoms are tremors, slowness of movement, stiffness and impaired balance. It affects about two of every 1,000 people, according to the National Institute of Health.

D'Alli attends continuing education every year to stay current with the strides the medical community is making with the disease. The Center was recently named as a National Parkinson's Foundation Center of Excellence.

As a social worker, she helps clients deal with Parkinson's, whether they are experiencing physical, practical, or emotional limitations. She can help identify support for prescriptions; encourage patients to make use of walkers or lift-up chairs, locate day care facilities, or simply listen to a tired caregiver.

The next meeting of the support group is Jan. 6. The guest speaker will be Terri Denning, a AAA driving instructor. She will speak on tests that are available to assess a patient's ability to continue driving. Results are sent to the physician of the patient's choice. She will have assistive devices available for review.

The Salisbury group meets on the first Tuesday of every month at First Presbyterian Church, from 1 to 2 p.m. The group exists to provide support, education, and encouragement to all who are affected by Parkinson's.