By Gary May, NTH Contributing Writer
There was a buzz of activity and excitement in the room as the Newnan Parkinson’s Support Group conducted their monthly meeting this past week.
The featured guest speaker, Michele Drew, founder of Thrive Pilates & Functional Fitness, explained the Pilates method of exercise and led the group in a series of exercises tailored for participants who have Parkinson’s Disease.
Also on the agenda was the formal launch of the Group’s new PD Advocate Program, an innovative support system for people newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
According to Drew, who has special training in working with neurological and movement disorders, Pilates is a mind-body exercise system that helps you think about being precise in your movements while monitoring your breathing pattern and postural alignment.
“The benefits of the Pilates approach have been well documented, including improved strength and stability, better posture and balance, and greater flexibility,” said Drew.
While most Pilates studios include some mechanical equipment, many of the exercises can be done sitting or standing, perhaps with wall or chair support, or with some simple and inexpensive props. Drew demonstrated and led the group through a variety of examples.
Two exercises seemed to be of particular interest to the group. One was the use of a Naboso® training mat while doing balance exercises with bare feet. The unique texture used in the mat is designed to stimulate the nerves in the bottom of the feet. Sensory stimulation of the feet during exercise can improve postural control, stability and strength.
The other activity that created a lot of interest was the “dueling pool noodles,” using pool noodles cut down to sword size. In pairs, participants, holding a different color noodle in each hand, respond to commands to strike the opponent’s noodle by color left or right. Creating a lot of fun and laughter, this exercise works on balance, stability, mobility and agility.
The second item on the agenda was the launch of the PD Advocate Program, in development for the past six months. The program targets individuals newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Receiving the diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease is a scary time for individuals and their care partners.
PD is a complex disease impacting each person in a different way, and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to managing the disease. It’s a time of confusion and many questions.
The program provides trained advocates – volunteers who have experienced the effects of the disease – to come alongside and assist in a number of ways, such as pointing to useful information and resources, as well as providing encouragement and emotional support.
Recently, four volunteers from the Newnan Parkinson’s Support Group completed the new Advocate training program: Drew Anderson, Eva Busha, Don Chapman and Nancy Granroos. They now represent the “launch team” and are ready to serve.
Larry Bergeson, founder and director of the program, issued certificates of completion for the training. Gary May, who facilitated the development of the training, handed out the final version of the training/reference guide, which is available in both digital and tabbed notebook versions.
The members of the launch team all contributed to the content of the training and resource materials. “We’re thankful that we have these four very talented individuals committed to the project,” said Bergeson. “We appreciate their heart for service and willingness to invest in helping others navigate their PD journey.”
“The task now,” said Bergeson, “is to get the word out to let the community know we’re offering this valuable service.” The program has a very nice trifold brochure that the launch team and other group members are working to get distributed into neurologist offices in the area.
The team has also brainstormed a number of other ideas for distributing brochures and information cards they are currently pursuing. A website is also in the works.
Individuals recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s or their care partners can connect with the PD Advocate Program by emailing their contact information to email@example.com .
Michele Drew’s home studio is located in the Newnan area. She works with clients one-on-one, as well as providing group sessions. She can be reached through her email: firstname.lastname@example.org .
The Newnan Parkinson’s Support Group meets the second Tuesday of each month at the First United Methodist Church of Newnan at 2:30 p.m. A typical agenda includes time for fellowship and mutual support, plus a guest speaker with expertise in one or more dimensions of Parkinson’s. For more information visit the group’s website at www.newnanpd.org .