Bemidji Support Group Helps People With Parkinson’s Disease
For over 20 years, a Parkinson’s support group in Bemidji has been a place for people with Parkinson’s disease and their care-givers to provide each other comfort, advice and words of encouragement.
“It’s so nice to know that you are not alone with this thing. And that other people have lives and go out and live them and deal with it and continue to be productive and happy people,” Thomas Gritz said.
The support group offers patients with publications from the Parkinson’s Foundation, the Micheal J. Fox Foundation and from the American Parkinson’s Disease Association. There’s also guest speakers and a physical therapist who provides exercises that are designed for Parkinson’s patients.
Willis Tacker, who was diagnosed two years ago, says the resources has helped him in improving his life, even when that means being more cautious.
“I’m perfectly happy going for a ride in a pontoon boat, but a deep ‘v’ is not a good thing for me to try and get into and out on,” Tracker said. “So it’s little practical adjustments that I have learned how to make that are different in my life.”
Parkinson’s is a neurological disorder that progresses over time. Support group member Kenneth Johannson was diagnosed with the disease six years ago after seeing a physician for a general exam. He learned about the support group two years ago.
“It helps you to deal with the issues that you have and the symptoms – I think everyone will tell you that they come out gradually,” Johannson said. “And you’ll find that you’ll get more and more symptoms as you get along with the disease.”
Parkinson’s affects people’s motor skills and can show in symptoms such as a shaky hand or a finger, difficulty in walking, and slurring of words. Other symptoms include loss of taste and smell, fatigue and cognitive changes. Parkinson’s disease affects people differently, and no two patients are the same.
“Each day for a Parkinson’s person is different. One day he’ll tell me, ‘I almost feel normal,’ and another day he’ll say, ‘this is not a good day,’” Andrea Gritz, wife and caregiver to Thomas Gritz, said.
People in the support group stressed that an early diagnosis is important. So far, there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but there are treatments available and medication to help reduce and relieve symptoms.
The next meeting is August 20. The support group meets every third Tuesday of the month at 1:30 p.m. at the WoodsEdge Senior Living Campus in the WindSong building.