Positive Despite Parkinson's
By Mary Jane Berry
On the fourth Thursday of the month, attendees are greeted with smiles, hugs and refreshments. It's the monthly meeting of the Georgetown Area Parkinson's Disease Support Group (GAPS), an organization which aids and advocates for people with Parkinson's disease; those dealing with any of the atypical Parkinsonian disorders and/or Parkinson's-plus syndromes; anyone living with any movement disorder, and – of course – friends and family. The group strives to "bridge the GAPS" for a positive journey through Parkinson's disease and its related conditions.
Parkinson's disease is a neurodegenerative disorder which develops slowly over years. Symptoms, which often vary from one person to another, can include small handwriting, loss of smell, difficulty sleeping, mobility issues, a change in voice volume, dizziness and fainting. The cause remains largely unknown and, though the disease itself is not fatal, complications can be serious. While there is no cure, a variety of treatment options exist, including physical therapy, medications and surgery.
"Everyone is welcomed," says GAPS facilitator Mary Jane Berry. Mary Jane first came to GAPS in 2007. Her husband Dave had been diagnosed with Parkinson's just months after they'd moved to Sun City Texas. Mary Jane became the group's facilitator in 2011 and has held the role ever since.
In their mission to improve experiences with Parkinson's for patients and caretakers alike, GAPS' aims are the following:
- To provide opportunities to discuss shared experiences and feelings.
- To share information benefiting all members and caregivers/care partners.
- To learn more about Parkinson's and related issues to enable a positive, high-quality life for those with movement disorder diseases.
- To provide opportunities for engaging in healthy, positive and constructive social and physical activities.
- To welcome, inspire, assist and have fun!
As a support group, GAPS understands that Parkinson's puts enough financial burden on a person. That's why there are no dues – all financial backing comes in the form of donations and/or fundraisers.
In addition to their monthly general meeting, the group offers an array of exercise programs and activities, including dance classes, singing lessons, chair yoga sessions, boxing and more. Support meetings are also available for caregivers and those who have undergone or who are interested in learning more about deep brain stimulation (DBS).
Boasting almost 900 members, GAPS is open to all. The group regularly welcomes patients, caregivers, friends, family members, healthcare professionals and anyone else who may wish to attend. Monthly meetings usually have around 100 attendees and refreshments are always served.
Living with any kind of disease which affects mobility can be challenging, but there are many things that can be done to maintain a positive attitude and live well.
Mary Jane's husband Dave advises that, "Both caregiver and patient must stay busy doing the things that they enjoy and filling their days with activities that bring them together."
Anyone is welcome to attend GAPS' free meetings and classes. It is a great time and an opportunity to meet others. Remember: you are NOT alone!
"Don't be consumed with what might happen down the road," says Dave. "Consume what you have today. As they say in Texas, 'Carpe diem, y'all.'"
Call or email Mary Jane Berry at 512-240-4167 (home) / 512-658-3658 (cell) or firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions. For additional information and resources, visit GAPS online at georgetowntxparkinson.weebly.com.