Independence and Community
Our American culture values the image of the self-sufficient person who stoically toughs out hard times without help from others. Revered by many, this model nonetheless can lead to a life of disassociated independence. By trying to live upto such misguided ideals, we miss out on a primary purpose of our lives – to connect with others. We also lose the rewards of living in community.
Each Parkinson's disease support group is unique. They have many different meeting formats and focuses, determined by the individuals who belong to each group. All, however, share a strong sense of community and fellowship. Members are free to come just as they are and to participate without fear of being incongruous. Much encouragement is offered, along with a sincere understanding that the range of membership is as broad as the range of symptoms throughout the disease’s progression.
For the most part, support groups are self-managed and led. Their purpose is to share information and offer mutual support. Members of support groups have become “prosumers.” Both persons with PD and caregivers become not only empowered but also essential in the management of the disease and the changes it brings to their lives. They become better equipped as both healthcare consumers and uniquely qualified providers of information and support to others.
Support groups broaden the circle of friends. The relationships formed within the group are not intended to replace, but to add to the existing cluster of family and friends. These friends often have a perspective that only those intimate with the disease can offer and an empathy born of common experience, not expertise. Group members are often the sounding board in talking out fears, concerns, or setbacks and celebrating victories along the way.
To many people with PD and their caregivers, support groups are as essential to their treatment as any medical or pharmaceutical therapy. Although it’s true that a support group cannot help relieve a tremor, restore movement, or regain balance, it’s just as true that no drug or medical intervention can hold a hand, give a smile of encouragement, or say “I understand.”
If you are a person with Parkinson's disease or a caregiver, and not a member of a support group, please consider attending one or more of the following support groups. You are likely to receive much value.
Support Groups in Western PA