Parkinson’s Support Groups Can Offer a Little Help From Your Friends

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by Jo Gambosi |

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Everyone needs support. Whether a person is living with a chronic disease, serving as a caregiver for someone with an illness, or just living life, everybody needs support — to be encouraged, to be lifted up, or to have someone to share their experiences with. 

I think we are born with this need to be supported and to offer support. The fact that there are so many support groups, and for so many different issues, seems to prove that point.

The idea of offering support to one another is even in the Bible. A passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes and attributed to King Solomon reads, “For if they fall, one will help his companion up, but pity the person who falls down and has no one to help him up.”

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My sister Bev has stage 3 Parkinson’s disease (PD). Her caregivers, including me, don’t always know what to do, or how to say things to her that are supportive. Because of her cognitive issues with PD, we try to speak to Bev respectfully, and in a manner that she can easily understand.

For these reasons, we have encouraged her to participate in Parkinson’s support groups, and to share her experience with others who are living with PD.

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Psychologist David Susman, PhD, notes that participating in support groups can be both empowering and beneficial. He says support groups help decrease the feeling of loneliness, and allow members to share their experiences without being judged. Support groups can also provide helpful information, increase socialization skills, and serve as a source of encouragement. 

Support groups can also decrease stress and anxiety and improve quality of life. Joining one is also a good way to learn about current trends in PD research or therapies.

Both the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research and the American Parkinson Disease Association, as well as others, provide listings of in-person and online support groups. 

Although my sister has not joined an “official” PD support group, she attends a PD balance and exercise class in her community and enrolls again every few months. The group provides social interaction with others with PD, and doughnuts  and coffee are served after the class — making it Bev’s favorite part — which lets members continue to socialize and talk.

Support groups may not be not for everyone, and every support group is bound to be different, so if someone with PD or their caregiver are looking to join a group, they should shop around to see what works best for them.

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

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