PRESQUE ISLE — A new support group for people living with Parkinson’s Disease, along with their family members and friends, will hold its first meeting from 4-5 p.m. Wednesday, March 6 at the Northern Light A.R. Gould Hospital conference center, 140 Academy Street.
The group is being coordinated by Jennifer Bryce, MA, CCC-SLP, a speech therapist at the hospital who often works with patients with PD to help improve symptoms of voice, swallowing and memory problems. She started a similar group when she was working in the mid-coast region and wanted to provide the same valuable resource here when she recently relocated back to Aroostook County.
“I have truly enjoyed the experience of helping people who are living with Parkinson’s Disease,” explains Bryce, who has more than 20 years of experience in her field. “By bringing people with the condition together, I hope the meetings will help people with the disease, and their loved ones, find the answers to their questions and also discover a source of comfort and support in each other. The experience of discussing their individual challenges helps Parkinson’s patients know that they are not alone and realize positive solutions for living with the illness.”
The symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are unique to each individual, but frequently include physical tremor, stiff muscles, rigidity and balance issues. Memory, speech, swallowing and sleep can also be affected.
“People with Parkinson’s have so many different challenges in their daily life, things that most of us take for granted, like talking, getting dressed, sleeping and eating,” says Bryce.
The group will meet the first Wednesday of each month from 4-5 p.m. in the conference center located in the hospital’s East Annex. In addition to the traditional sharing and support found in groups such as this, there will also be guest presenters at meetings. These presenters will be determined based on the interest of group members.
“People should understand that this support group is not a therapy group or a substitute for medical treatment or health counseling. It is really more of a self-help group with some education added in,” says Bryce. “The meetings offer people with the condition the chance to share information and talk about their experience. Meanwhile, special guests and presenters will periodically be available to discuss specific topics of interest.”
Bryce is collaborating with Karen Marsters, president of the Maine Parkinson’s Society, for the establishment of this support group. Marsters plans to attend the group and share her knowledge of resources across the state. While there are several PD Support Groups in the state, this group getting started in Presque Isle is the only one in The County at this time. However, Marsters and Bryce hope to work together to provide additional PD support groups in other locations across the region in the future.