Annalee and Laird Siemens. Photo courtesy Jen Siemens.

Annalee and Laird Siemens. Photo courtesy Jen Siemens.

Marking April as Parkinson’s Awareness Month

Annalee and Laird Siemens share their experiences and journey through life with Parkinson’s.

Parkinson Society of British Columbia is marking April as Parkinson’s Awareness Month as part of a campaign to have a public conversation about the unique experiences of those living with the neurological disease.

The Society’s campaign — More than a Tremor — aims to raise awareness about Parkinson’s disease, which affects the lives of over 15,000 British Columbians, and advocate for the importance of community supports, teams of health care professionals and care partners.

Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative neurological disorder, caused by a loss of cells that produce dopamine in an area of the brain called the substantia nigra, according to the Parkinson Society of BC.

Most common symptoms include a resting tremor, rigidity and stiffness in muscles, balance and postural impairment, loss of senses such as smell and taste, and difficulty speaking and swallowing. Parkinson’s disease can also cause other symptoms manifested in mental health, such as anxiety or depression.

In Cranbrook, there is a support group facilitated by Annalee and Laird Siemens, for people who are living with Parkinson’s. While COVID-19 has posed some challenges over the last two years, the group is meeting in-person with a group of approximately 20 people, including care partners.

Annalee was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2013, but she does not let that define her.

She says the best thing people who have a diagnosis can do is stay active and keep doing the things they love to do — go to restaurants or the theatre and stay connected with family and friends, as well as social and faith groups.

“Our advice would be, don’t give up,” said Annalee. “Start or continue to exercise, maintain your social contacts, educate yourself on the disease and join a support group. Don’t be afraid to tell your family and close friends of your diagnosis — they may be the source of the support you need travelling this journey.

“The journey isn’t easy but there are wonderful moments in it; life can still be very fulfilling.”

Exercise and active living are encouraged, through activities such as dance, yoga or boxing, according to the Parkinson Society of BC. Within some of the exercise disciplines are “power” moves (Parkinson Wellness Recovery, or PWR) that are specifically designed to mitigate symptoms and rebuild motor functionality.

It is also important to consult with a neurologist that specializes in movement disorders, who can help create a care plan tailored to the specific needs of someone who is living with Parkinson’s.

Care partners also have a vital role. It’s important to establish a partnership, and mutual understanding of what kind of help and support a person living with Parkinson’s wants and needs in their daily life.

There can be a stigma attached to Parkinson’s that it is only a disease affecting seniors, when in fact, it can be identified in people aged 40 or even younger. In those cases, care plans and support also evolve over time based on the initial demographic of a diagnosis.

For more information on the local Cranbrook support group, which meets the first Wednesday of the month, call or email 250-420-4811 and/or pdcranbrook@gmail.com. For more information on Parkinson’s disease, visit the Parkinson Society of British Columbia website at www.parkinson.bc.ca



trevor.crawley@cranbrooktownsman.com

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