An exercise and support program helps patients with Parkinson’s.
Stuart Cooper, of Livingston, and Michele Sutton of West Orange, are both
74 and suffer from Parkinson’s disease. And they share one more
thing in common—the two are regulars at the Parkinson’s Disease
Support Program, a collaboration between Saint Barnabas Medical Center
and the JCC MetroWest. The program offers exercise and support groups
for patients with Parkinson’s and other neuromuscular/movement disorders
and their family caregivers.
Exercise classes are held three days a week. On Monday, it’s tai
chi chih, a series of slow, controlled movements that focus on the development
of an internal energy that the Chinese call chi. Wednesday’s class
helps attendees build strength and improve balance, both of which suffer
from the debilitating effects of neuromuscular disease. On Thursday, participants
get into the pool for water exercises. “I don’t think we will
vanquish the disease, but the classes improve strength and balance, and
invariably I learn something,” Cooper says.
The support groups meet one Friday every month. “We discuss new research
and treatments, the challenges and frustrations the group members face,
the importance of physical activity and nutrition, and how to manage the
disease,” Cooper says. “We share what works and what doesn’t
work. The caregiver support group is primarily spouses, and we talk about
both the good and bad, as well as the frustrations they face as caregivers.”
Both Cooper’s wife, Karen, and Sutton’s husband, David, attend
that group. “Couples go through this disease together,” Sutton says.
Occasionally, the groups invite guest speakers. “Michael J. Fox once
said that Parkinson’s is the gift that keeps on taking,” Sutton
says. “The support groups are a lifeline for me and my husband.”
Part of that lifeline is made up of the connections made with others battling
the disease, which is a primary goal of the program. “These programs
have brought this community of individuals living with this disease closer,”
Stephen P. Zieniewicz, FACHE , president and chief executive officer of
Saint Barnabas Medical Center, says. “Participants find a lot of
support being able to talk, laugh, and joke with people who understand
the challenges of living with Parkinson’s.”
To find out more about the Parkinson’s Disease Support Programs offered
through Saint Barnabas Medical Center, please call 973.322.8195.