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April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month

Pictou County, N.S. – Murray MacDonald knows there is little hope for a cure in his lifetime.

“Every day I get much worse than the day before,” he said.

MacDonald has Parkinsonism, a Parkinson’s-like disease that in his case was caused by trauma. It’s a debilitating disease that robs those with it of their ability to coordinate movement properly and for some robs them of their ability to even speak.

“You go cross the crosswalk and you go to up the curb, but you can’t make the signal go from your brain to your feet,” MacDonald said.

Then there is the Parkinson’s gate, that makes those with it prone to falls. MacDonald now uses a walker at all times and takes medication three times a day in attempt to reduce the impact.

While he’s not optimistic for himself, he hopes that for others facing the illness in the future that more research can result in a cure or at least better treatment.

He’s heard estimates that two per cent of the population in Pictou County currently has Parkinson’s and that the number in Canada is expected to climb with an aging population.

“It’s going to be a real big problem very shortly,” he said.

That’s why members of the Parkinson’s Society of Canada’s Pictou County chapter believe it’s important to celebrate Parkinson’s Awareness Month during the month of April in order to raise awareness.

The group meets monthly at the community room at Superstore and took some extra time this week to mark the month.

The support group is a great way for people with the disease to find ways of coping says Dennis McGee who has been going for about seven years. When he started going, he was still an employee at Eastern Tire in New Glasgow and would take his lunch break to attend the meetings.

“It helps a lot,” he said.

Every week organizers of the group work hard to get new speakers in who can help with a variety of topics. Recent speakers talked about in-home supports that are available through the health-care system. Even if the speakers help one or two people that day, it makes a huge difference, McGee said.

But in addition to information, it’s a chance to socialize and talk with others who are facing the same struggles,” McGee said.

Often after the meeting, people stay to talk privately.

“I think we have a very solid group,” said McGee. “They’re good people.”

About Parkinson’s disease

- Parkinson’s is a chronic degenerative neurological disease caused by a reduction of dopamine in the brain

- Common symptoms: tremor (shaking); slowness in movements; muscle stiffness; and problems with balance

- Other symptoms may also occur for some people, such as fatigue, difficulties with speech and writing, sleep disorders, loss of sense of smell, depression and cognitive changes.

- Parkinson’s will worsen over time and at present there is no cure

- Symptoms are often managed through medication; exercise programs and speech therapy can also help

- A single cause for Parkinson’s has not been identified.

- More than 100,000 Canadians are estimated to have Parkinson’s disease.

- Due to the aging baby boomer population, that number is expected to rise dramatically.

Information from Parkinson’s Society Canada

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