Parkinson Alberta gears up for Step ‘n Stride event

Parkinson Alberta is getting ready for the annual Step ‘n Stride event, which takes place Sept. 12th at the Golden Circle in Red Deer.

Staff and volunteers with Parkinson Alberta are getting ready for the annual Step ‘n Stride event, which takes place Sept. 12th at the Golden Circle in Red Deer.

“The event has been running for at least 10 years,” said Moira Cairns, client services coordinator with Parkinson Alberta’s Central Alberta region. “Across the province in 2014 we raised approximately $350,000. We have seven regions across the province as well.”

Registration is at 9 a.m. with the walk beginning at 10:30 a.m. There will be a free family picnic, prizes for top fundraisers, door prizes and a silent auction. Folks are encouraged to sign up as teams, or just on their own as well. “Any funds we raise also stay in Alberta for support services, education, resources and support groups.”

People can also register the day of the event by making a donation. “We are also so appreciative of our fantastic volunteers who help us every year.”

For more information about Step ‘n Stride, call the Red Deer office at 403-346-4463 or email mcairns@parkinsonalberta.ca. Local residents can also learn about local support groups in Lacombe, Red Deer, Innisfail, Castor, Olds and Three Hills.

According to Parkinson Alberta, Parkinson disease (PD) is a slowly progressive and chronic process. It mainly affects parts of the brain controlling how a person moves.

“It is the second most common neurological disorder besides Alzheimer’s disease. We estimate well over 10,000 people in Alberta have Parkinson disease.”

Many people have symptoms between the ages of 50 and 60 years, but some have symptoms at a much younger age, others at a much older age. Over time, symptoms will get worse and may change to include more/different symptoms than when a person is first diagnosed. This usually happens slowly, over years, according to Parkinson Alberta. As symptoms start to interfere with how someone is able to do everyday things, there are treatments that can help.

There are misconceptions about PD. “There really is no diagnosis for Parkinson’s disease. There are no blood tests or lab tests. What they do is they eliminate other disorders first that might be related,” she said.

“They have to eliminate everything but Parkinson disease and that includes a medical review of the person’s history. People may also have PD long before they receive a diagnosis.”

To date, no one knows exactly how and why PD starts. So far it looks as if aging, things in the environment (toxins or poisons) and abnormalities in some genes may trigger the changes in the body that lead to PD.

Initially, most people will notice changes on one side of the body. It may be a tremor when an arm or leg is just resting, it might be handwriting getting smaller, it may be a feeling of slowing down, a person’s face may lose some of its expression so they look bored or depressed, even if they are not.

Cairns said people may also notice a loss of their sense of smell. “We now know that many people with PD also experience depression and anxiety. Those are called non-motor symptoms.

“Well over 40 per cent of people that have Parkinson disease also have depression and anxiety,” she said.

Cairns also said there are four main (motor) symptoms that a doctor will look for in making a diagnosis. These include a tremor which is described as a trembling or shaking that is involuntary and usually seen in the hands or the legs when they are just resting.

But as Cairns pointed out, not everyone with tremor has Parkinson disease and not everyone who has Parkinson disease has a tremor.

Also, there can be slow movements, rigidity and difficulties with walking and balance. People’s footsteps can tend to get smaller. “They shuffle, which can be quite dangerous actually,” she said.

“But not everyone has the same symptoms. And there are over 32 non-motor symptoms.

“It’s also very difficult to determine what someone’s symptoms will be when they have Parkinson disease. It’s unique from person to person.”

How a person feels from day to day can change as well, which affects what they might feel like doing. “Some days a person with Parkinson’s disease may be okay to do certain things, and the next day they may not be.”

Meanwhile, there is support available through Parkinson Alberta, which is dedicated to helping people and families in Alberta who live with (PD) and related disorders.

They provide support, services, information and resources to those affected by Parkinson disease, their families, care partners, friends and health care providers. Core services also include individual and family counseling, support groups, learning resources, referrals, peer programs, in-services and community awareness programs.

They also offer information about the symptoms of PD, treatments, side effects, management strategies, research, community resources and navigating the health care system to individuals and health professionals.

Visit www.parkinsonalberta.ca for more information about local means of support and assistance. You can also find the organization on facebook (Parkinson Alberta) and on Twitter (@ParkinsonAB).

editor@reddeerexpress.com