April is National Parkinson’s Awareness Month; Services limited in Wyoming

(Lander, WY) – On Tuesday, April 13th, Lander Mayor Monte Richardson signed a proclamation designating April as National Parkinson’s and Caregiver Awareness Month.

Nationally, April is recognized as National Parkinson’s Awareness Month, and Wyoming Parkinson’s people and care partners are using the occasion to spread awareness of the disease and what can be done about it.

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Parkinson’s disease is a chronic, progressive, neurological disease and is the second most common neurodegenerative disease in the United States. The Parkinson’s Foundation claims Wyoming has at least 1,400 people with Parkinson’s Disease based on its national formula, but experts here believe there are many more. There are not enough neurologists in the state and no movement disorder specialists. Consequently, many people are either undiagnosed or incorrectly diagnosed.

Despite the need, Wyoming has only five support and/ or exercise groups at this time (Lander, Riverton, Casper, Jackson, and Cheyenne). Scientists believe a combination of genetic and environmental factors cause Parkinson’s. For example, people who were exposed to Agent Orange in Vietnam might get Parkinson’s, according to the Veteran’s Administration. Terry Wehrman, one of the founders of the Wind River Parkinson’s Support Group, was one of those.

The Wind River Parkinson’s Support Group formed in July 2015. Since a Parkinson’s Exercise Group had been meeting at the Lander Senior Center for several years, the center director, Jane Nolde, knew there was a need for a support group, which provides both expertise and comradery for their members. Anyone in the region can participate in the Wind River Parkinson’s Support Group, which provides monthly educational programs via Zoom on the first Thursday of every month. Experts from as far away as Portugal have addressed topics such as current research, practical tips for caregivers, fall prevention, fatigue management, and music therapy, according to Marjane Ambler, another of the founders of the Wind River group.

Exercise is known to be an effective tool for slowing the progress of Parkinson’s. In Wyoming, either in-person and Zoom exercise programs are provided now in Lander, Riverton, Cheyenne, Jackson, and Casper. The exercise group in Lander meets on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 1 p.m., usually utilizing DVDs. Volunteer therapists occasionally have worked with them over the years, including Wind River Physical Therapy, Teton Therapy in Lander and Riverton, and Frontier Home Health and Hospice. The Riverton Senior Citizen Center group is starting again on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, also at 1-2 pm.

For more information about Parkinson’s activities in the region, contact Ambler in care of the Lander Senior Citizen Center (307) 332-2746 or the Parkinson’s Association of the Rockies https://parkinsonrockies.org/.

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