Doug Martens insists having a sense of humour is key for those trying to get through life with Parkinson’s disease.
That attitude prevails even in the name of the Movers and Shakers Parkinson’s support group, which has a presence in North Kildonan, Transcona, and St. Vital.
"Humour is a good thing when you have a progressive neurological disorder," said Martens, the group’s unofficial chairman, who is 60 and has had Parkinson’s for almost a decade. "Each day is different, and if you don’t laugh, you’re going to cry in your beer a lot."
"I haven’t had a beer in 24 years," chipped in Nick Driedger, referring to how long he has had Parkinson’s. The 67-year-old attends meetings with his wife and caregiver, Dorothy.
Organizers say people come from all over the city and even Steinbach to attend. Newcomers are always welcome, and programming is free, though a one-dollar donation is requested to cover the cost of refreshments.
Volunteer Nellie Allen, who became involved when her husband was diagnosed 20 years ago, remained committed to helping after his death two years ago.
"I had a lot of support when my husband had Parkinson’s. They were really good to him in helping him," said the 78-year-old North Kildonan resident. "The caregivers, they can hug each other too. The people there appreciate all we can do."
Karen Gilmour, a 68-year-old North Kildonan resident who has had Parkinson’s for 11 years, said while attendees are encouraged to share stories, they are not required to. If they do relate to a story that was shared, they can chat one-on-one with others in the group over tea, which is offered after each session.
"You always have some that are able to share, and be bold, and there are some that cannot do that," she said. "I happen to be one that can be open. Sometimes when I share something that I’m going through, I’ll have others come to me and say ‘I’m experiencing that.’"
Gilmour noted people with Parkinson’s are "condemned to thinking about things that used to be automatic", noting tasks like flushing the toilet take concentration.
Movers and Shakers offers exercise classes to help keep the body and mind active. The group will start up its weekly regimen once again in early September. Monday classes are offered from 1:30 to 3 p.m. at McIvor Avenue Mennonite Brethren Church (200 McIvor Ave.), and will start up again Sept. 9. Wednesday classes are from 1:15 to 3 p.m. at Transcona Alliance Church (751 Kildare Ave. E.) and will kick off Sept. 11. Thursday classes take place at the Central Church of Christ (170 St. Mary’s Rd.) from 1:30 to 3 p.m. and will begin Sept. 5.
Classes are generally the same format, with only an exercise or two changed each time.
Those interested in taking the classes are encouraged to check with their doctors beforehand to ensure their participation will be safe.
As well, three monthly meetings have been slated at McIvor Avenue Mennonite Brethren on Sept. 24, Oct. 29, and Nov. 26. All three meetings start at 6:30 p.m., and each will have a special guest speaker.
The group is allowed use of the churches and their facilities for free, and it appreciates the caretakers going above and beyond to make sure walkways are cleared, and even helping to walk people to the door.
For more information on the meetings, visit www.parkinson.ca, go to the ‘Home’ page, and click on the Manitoba branch page.
For more information on Movers and Shakers, email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Martens at 667-0589 or Allen at 661-1082.