Each year there are more than 60,000 newly diagnosed cases of Parkinson’s Disease in the United States. If these cases were college students, they would be the largest university in the state of Indiana. By the end of this month, over 5,000 new diagnoses will have been made across the nation. Unfortunately, most Americans don’t even know what Parkinson’s Disease is, and even fewer know the symptoms or treatment. Parkinson’s is a movement disorder caused by the loss of dopamine-producing brain cells, so it is a neurological disorder, and the average age of onset Parkinson’s is 60. However, 5-10 percent of patients are diagnosed with early onset of the disease before age 50.
Currently, there is no cure for Parkinson’s, and the symptoms (uncontrollable movement and muscle stiffness) can increase over time, making for a poor quality of life. The Indiana Parkinson Foundation supports Hoosiers living with Parkinson’s, their caregivers and supporters, while urging the community to move toward a cure.
However, while we are believing in a cure, we work daily to improve the physical, mental and spiritual lives of Hoosiers living with Parkinson’s. Research states the best therapy for those with Parkinson’s is movement, which is why The Climb exercise program was created. The Climb is an exercise program designed to allow Hoosiers with Parkinson’s to work with specialized trainers to encourage prevention and physical recovery.
Until there is a cure for Parkinson’s, many people living with the disease have found pets to provide help with daily life, as well as companionship. Service dogs trained to work with people with Parkinson’s can help their owners maintain balance while walking, or alert a family member after a fall. They can also be trained to help people with Parkinson’s move when experiencing gait freezing or stand up after a fall. Also, simply owning a dog forces people to exercise regularly.
Oftentimes, people ask how they can help. The short answer is to support IPF through your charitable giving. A more intimate opportunity is to participate in IPF events. In fact, we are having an event to honor our furry friends on Saturday, June 24, at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. The Canine Catwalk is an opportunity to take our furry friends and companions on a night on the town, while raising money for the Indiana Parkinson Foundation.
The event will feature food, fun and vendors for humans and dogs, but the highlight of the evening will be the doggy fashion show, hosted by Indy’s own Patty Spitler. The event promises to be a good time for all, but most importantly it will raise money and awareness of Parkinson’s Disease. To get involved, please visit www.indianaparkinson.org.
Two of the biggest supporters of a cure for Parkinson’s are Michael J. Fox and the late Muhammad Ali. Both used their celebrity to raise awareness, dispel myths and encourage support.
Yolanda Wide is executive director, Noblesville-Indiana Parkinson Foundation.