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Foundation seeks to establish Parkinson's group

By KALEY CONNER

kconner@dailynews.net

Community members are coming together with a common goal of helping people diagnosed with Parkinson's disease live as well as possible.

An informational meeting is set for Feb. 15 to gauge interest in launching a support group for those with the disease and their caregivers.

"There's just a lot of things we can do if we are educated about the disease ... to promote quality of life for people with Parkinson's," said Eileen Rohrberg, a registered nurse who is leading the efforts.

"So I think we're passionate about it for both professional and personal reasons."

The meeting will be from 11:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Messiah Lutheran Church, 2000 Main. There is no cost to attend, and lunch will be provided.

The meeting will be facilitated by Amy Gaier, a representative with the National Parkinson Foundation. The foundation, which supports research and promotes wellness initiatives for people with the disease, has encouraged efforts to start a support group in Hays, Rohrberg said.

Parkinson's disease is a slowly progressing neurodegenerative disorder that occurs when the brain does not make enough dopamine, a neurotransmitter that regulates movement.

Symptoms include tremors, slowness of movement, stiffness and trouble with balance.

As many as 60,000 people are diagnosed with the disease each year, according to information from the foundation.

Hays has been without a support group for several years, Rohrberg said, noting the group will strive to keep a positive focus.

"We don't want it to be a group where we just come together and bemoan the fact that we have Parkinson's or our loved ones have Parkinson's," she said. "We want it to be how can we deal with this the best way and improve our quality of life."

While there is no known cure for the disease, research suggests lifestyle choices can play a significant role in symptom management. The group will seek to educate about the importance of exercise, proper nutrition and sleep, she said.

As with any chronic disease, patients also can benefit from the social interaction and mutual support.

"The more we can get together ... and encourage one another in the difficulties and rejoice with each other in the successes -- that's really important with a chronic disease," Rohrberg said. "Whatever that disease might be."

Those wanting to attend the meeting should RSVP by Feb. 11 to (785) 628-1231 or (785) 625-2057.

* * *

A continuing education event for health care professions will be in conjunction with the public meeting. Nurses, physical therapists, social workers and occupational therapists can sign up for the workshop, which will be from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the church.

The event will provide the latest information about caring for patients with the disease, said Karen Aufdemberge, senior coordinator at the University of Kansas Area Health Education Center in Hays.

"It was time to do an update about the new things that are out there to treat Parkinson's," Aufdemberge said. "My mother had Parkinson's, so I have a personal interest in it, too."

For more information about the workshop, contact the AHEC office at (785) 628-6128.