MPF has affiliated support groups across the state of Michigan. These groups generally meet on a monthly basis. Support groups provide people with PD and their families the opportunity to learn more about this condition and its management.
If there are no support groups in your area and you are interested in having one formed, please contact the Michigan Parkinson Foundation at (800)852-9781.
Two people in a doctor's waiting room happen to strike up a conversation. They are soon sharing information, asking each other about medication, how to handle difficulties presented by Parkinson's Disease. An informal support group has begun.
Who knows more about PD than the people who live with it and their partners who help with the struggle? A support group does exactly what that doctor's waiting room did - it brings together people with a common bond. Unlike the doctor's office, a support group validates people's concerns by also looking after their emotional needs. How many people, after their first visit to a support group, were heard to say, "And I thought I was the only one with this problem."
A support group is a tremendous pool of knowledge and experience. Members are encouraged to share how:
- To cope with the day-to-day challenges,
- To get the most from their visit to the doctor,
- To ask intelligently about medication and therapy,
- To instruct the hospital staff in the event of an admission,
- To tell family and friends about PD (they notice it before you realize they do),
- To empathize with other people in the same situation,
- To maintain a good attitude and even laugh at adversity,
- To define what's important in life and what can be left behind
Support groups become a large family of understanding, sympathetic, and encouraging patients, caregivers, and concerned friends. Each group has a personality, defined by its members. Some people may attend more than one support group, because their needs are greater than can be satisfied once a month.
Support groups are informal - all are welcome. Often, there will be a speaker - doctor, pharmacist, therapist, counselor, humorist, lawyer, or other professional. Some meetings will be a free-spirited discussion among its members about topics of great interest. Or the facilitator may have arranged something special - dinner at a restaurant or a trip to the park. Don't be afraid to speak to the facilitator about what interests you.
There's a saying that you get as much from an activity as you put into it. Nobody will force you to speak during a group discussion, but you will benefit more if you share your feelings and thoughts. The facilitator always appreciates a helping hand, even if it is an occasional few minutes to help greet new members or to organize one meeting.
Remember - the support group is for your benefit. Use it wisely and often. Pitch in your two cents!
David Bartczak, Support Group Facilitator and MPF Board Member