Combating Parkinson’s together

Feeling good about themselves, finding an identity and a purpose – are all things members discovered through Parivarthan for Parkinson’s, an Anna Nagar-based community support group

November 12, 2015 08:16 am | Updated 04:24 pm IST - CHENNAI:

At first, Kannan S. thought there was something wrong with his eyes. He would feel exhausted when out in the sunlight, and found that his handwriting had begun to taper. Later, the resident of Nolambur was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, a progressive disorder of the nervous system that affects movement.

“I was put on medication, but I experienced a lot of side effects. And I was depressed. My confidence levels fell,” said the 68-year-old.

What changed this was Parivarthan for Parkinson’s, an Anna Nagar-based community support group for people with Parkinson’s disease and their families. Started about a year ago by Sudha Meiyappan, the group now has about 45 families involved and organises various activities including guest lectures every month, yoga sessions every week and home visits for those who cannot make it to the meetings.

“We encourage a lot of peer interaction and networking among members for mutual support,” said Ms. Meiyappan, who moved from the United States to India to care for her father, and then founded the group.

Over the last eight weeks or so G. Sithavan, another member, has been participating in the yoga sessions which are run by yoga therapists from Yogavahini, a training and healing centre. “Before I started, I found it difficult to turn my head and there were constant tremors in my hands. But practising the chin mudra has helped with the tremors and now I can turn around,” said the 70-year-old who was diagnosed in 2003.

His daughter, J. Jayanthi, said his speech too, had become clearer. “Before we joined this support group, my father had stopped going out. After coming here, he is beginning to go out again,” she said.

Feeling good about themselves, finding an identity and a purpose – are all things members discovered through the support group. “I’ve overcome my depression now and I’m feeling good,” said S. Mohideen, a retired teacher and member.

Members offer help in identifying the stage of Parkinson’s one is at so you know what to expect in the near future, said Mr. Kannan. “We engage in positive activity so it boosts our confidence. I’ve written two poems now – the group has given me an identity,” he said.

For the therapists, the experience is different but fulfilling – each person progresses at their own pace and the breathing, combined with movement exercises seem to have brought about a difference, said R. Ranzani, one of the yoga therapists. “They are also doing much better mentally, and look forward to the sessions,” said Vamsi Reddy, also a therapist.

Yoga is recommended alongside medical treatment, said M. Balamurugan, senior consultant neurosurgeon at Apollo Hospitals. “It increases flexibility, reduces rigidity and improves their ability to perform fine tasks such as buttoning a shirt,” he said.

Stay independent and stay supported – that’s the goal of the group, said Ms. Meiyappan.

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