Parkinson Foundation Western Pennsylvania is at the center of one of the most active and supportive Parkinson’s communities in the country. 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.”
Each of the support groups is unique, but all have a strong sense of community and fellowship.
Each of the support groups 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 as they wish. 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 self-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 existing friendships, 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.
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. They are all very receptive to new members and will welcome your participation at any level.