Purchase photos

Support group celebrates

2/4/2014

By ELIZABETH GOLDEN

egolden@dailynews.net

The High Plains Parkinson's Support Group is celebrating its one-year anniversary.

Parkinson's disease is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system, which causes movement-related symptoms.

The support group was founded by Eileen Rohrberg, along with Paula Desbien and Karen Aufdemberge.

"The group was founded for people with Parkinson's and people who support people with Parkinson's," said Rohrberg, a registered nurse who experienced her mother and husband live with the disease. "With my nursing background, I've worked with people who have Parkinson's, and I just want to get rid of this disease."

The support group meets monthly, and an average of 20 people attend each meeting.

"This group is a very positive experience," said Judy Flaherty, a victim of the disease who was diagnosed approximately 10 years ago. "It gives you the opportunity to interact with others and realize you aren't alone."

Rohrberg said many people come to the group thinking they were the only person with the disease.

"You're in denial at first," Flaherty said. "When I was first diagnosed, I wasn't telling anybody. By meeting with other people who have Parkinson's, you realize you aren't alone."

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, 500,000 people are estimated to suffer from the disease -- and 50,000 new cases are reported annually.

The group highlights education, support and advocacy.

The education aspect is fulfilled by guest speakers, informational videos and group discussions. Previous guest speakers have included an exercise physiologist, a music therapist, a nutritionist and an elder care attorney.

Flaherty leads a group music session at the end of every meeting.

"I play piano, organ, trumpet and French horn," she said. "The singing really helps the Parkinson's people because they have a tendency not to speak out. So this way everyone is singing along. They all seem to like it."

In order to fight back, the group also stresses advocacy.

"This is something we can fight," Flaherty said. "We're not going to give up."

Rohrberg said research is another important part of advocacy.

"There's a lot of opportunities to give money for research," she said.

In addition, exercise and medication, as well as support, also are important.

"Exercise is what they call the new medicine," Rohrberg said. "People who are exercising may be able to delay the progression of the disease."

Dr. Muhammad Nashatizadeh, a movement disorder specialist from Overland Park, will be the guest speaker at the next meeting. Nashatizadeh specializes in Parkinson's disease.

The support group will be at 11:45 a.m. Feb. 13 in Messiah Lutheran Church, 2000 Main. A light lunch will be provided. To register, call Rohrberg at (785) 628-1231.