MOUNT KISCO, N.Y. -- A Parkinson's Disease diagnosis can trigger fear and uncertainty. Patients and loved ones often wonder how long until signs will begin to manifest, and try to come to grips with their new reality. Thankfully for those facing this challenge, Northern Westchester Hospital is offering area residents guidance and support through a one-of-a-kind Parkinson's Support Group.
Designed to help both patients and caregivers, the support group was formed to address a growing need in Westchester County. "There isn’t much support for people with the disease," said Veronica Cea, a speech language pathologist at Northern Westchester Hospital's Chappaqua Crossing facility. "Sixty thousand people across the country are diagnosed each year, but there is only one other support group in the county."
The goal of NWH's new program is to create an environment where those affected by the disease are able to share their triumphs, offer encouragement and seek advice. "It’s important to have both patients and caregivers there," said Cea. "The patient is given an open forum to ask questions in a non-judgmental setting, and caregivers can learn how to care for the patient or loved one. The reality is many family members are making up [treatment] up as they go along, which is why a group or open forum can be so helpful."
One of the main issues addressed in their support group is the impact Parkinson's has on a patient's morale. "The disease is chronic and progressive, so patients often experience a hit to their self esteem and self worth," said Cea. "Therefore, it's important for a person to maintain not only a good active exercise routine, but also strong mental health. That's what will carry them through and keep them from feeling alone."
Affiliated with the American Parkinson's Disease Association, the support group will meet once a month, and offer informational and educational support. Cea and the Northern Westchester Hospital team have planned a series of lectures, meetings with neurologists, speech pathologists, therapists, pharmacists and other group therapy exercises to help patients and family members cope with the diagnosis.
"The end goal is to address the person," said Cea. "Addressing the person living with the disease and the caregiver is so important. It's our job to be non-judgmental and supportive."
The first Parkinson's Support Group will meet on Monday, Sept 18 from 1 p.m. - 2:30 p.m. in the Yoga Room at Northern Westchester Hospital's Chappaqua Crossing facility. The group will continue to meet on the third Monday of every month.
To register or learn more, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (914) 458-8761.