April is Parkinson's Awareness Month

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The Parkinson's Awareness of Clayton County group presented a check to Guttenberg Municipal Hospital physical therapist Kim Franzen. The money was used to help offset the cost of Franzen's LSVT recertification. From left are Marlene Errthum, Kim Franzen and Janet Hefel. (Photo submitted)

By Caroline Rosacker

April is National Parkinson's Awareness Month: Parkinson's disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. Symptoms often start gradually, starting with a barely noticeable tremor in just one hand. Tremors are common, but the disorder will also cause stiffness or slowing of movement.

In the early stages of the illness, a person may experience a lack of facial expression, stationary arms when walking and an increase in slurred or soft speech. An increase in depression can also present itself in those suffering from the disease. Parkinson's disease symptoms worsen as the condition progresses over time. 

Although the disease can't be cured, medication can be beneficial. A physician may suggest surgery to regulate certain regions of the brain to alleviate symptoms.

Parkinson’s disease affects approximately 1.5 million Americans. It strikes men slightly more often than women and is a condition usually affecting people in the over 60-age group. However, about 15% of patients with the disorder are diagnosed before the age of 40.

Parkinson's Awareness of Clayton County (PACC) is an approved 501(C) (3) non-profit organization formed in 2016 by several local families. 

Billie Jo Hefel, spokeswoman for the group told The Press, "The group's members are those who have been directly impacted by family members who currently have been diagnosed with or have passed away from the disease."

The group's mission statement is: To raise awareness for those affected by Parkinson's and their families.

The group offers resources, education and support to ensure that those affected by the disease are not alone. 

Hefel said, "Our organization donates to local Parkinson's patients to assist with their medical needs and other Parkinson's associations that benefit those affected by the disease." 

"We have started an exercise group so Parkinson's patients can maintain the strength they currently have. Everyone is welcome to our exercise group even if you don't have Parkinson's, and all attendees are encouraged to participate," said Hefel

The exercise group meets at the Guttenberg Hospital located at 200 Main St. in Guttenberg at 6 pm. on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month. Classes last approximately 30 minutes and are led by  Kim Franzen, a physical therapist from the Guttenberg hospital. Franzen is also certified in LSVT ­— the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment therapy program. 

A Parkinson's support group is also available at the hospital on the fourth Tuesday of each month following the 6 p.m. exercise class. The support group hosts guest speakers such as dietitians, pharmacists and other health professionals. Group leaders are on hand to help provide information, support and guidance to  people combating the disease and their caregivers.

She went on to say, "The PACC is in its fourth year of hosting an annual walk and golf outing.  The money we raise stays local, and in the past we have made donations  to the Guttenberg Care Center and The Guttenberg Municipal Hospital to help pay for needed equipment and to offset the cost associated with certification and re-certification of therapists and the LSVT therapy program." 

Hefel said, "New this year, we will be offering a grant program where local community members can apply for grants to use for their needs related to Parkinson's." 

The PACC, will have an information booth at the Clayton County Wellness Fair on Thursday, May 2, from 4-6 p.m. at Johnson's Reception Hall in Elkader. 

Further information can be found on the PACC website at www.pacc-iowa.org or by calling 563-252-3518 (Janet Hefel) or 563-590-9591 (Billie Jo Hefel). or email: parkinsonclaytoncounty@gmail.com or Facebook page: Parkinson's Awareness Group (Clayton County).

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