We all need help from each other, says Richard Beattie.
That’s why he and Alan Daves decided to re-establish a support group for those in the Greenwood area who have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and their caregivers.
“We’re here to support each other and learn from each other,” said Daves, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2012. “We wanted to get the support group started so we could all share about what one doctor says and what the other doctor says and our experiences.”
Beattie, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2014, said what commonly happens to people with the disease is that they begin to withdraw from social settings.
“They tend to withdraw a lot from interactions with friends and family,” he said. “It’s something that we all are concerned about. ... The tremors and the symptoms are a concern in a social situation.”
Beattie said sometimes the stress of a social event can increase symptoms of Parkinson’s, such as tremors.
“It’s sort of embarrassing at times,” said Daves.
Both Beattie and Daves say the support group gives those with Parkinson’s an opportunity to get out and socialize with others without having to feel awkward.
“We want people to know that they can join us and not be hesitant or feel embarrassed, because we’re all in the same boat,” said Beattie.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder that affects movement. Symptoms start gradually, sometimes starting with a barely noticeable tremor. It affects predominately dopamine-producing neurons in a specific area of the brain. Tremors are common, but the disorder also causes stiffness or slowing of movement.
Nearly one million Americans and 10 million people worldwide live with Parkinson’s disease, with approximately 60,000 people in the United States diagnosed with the disease each year. It is the second most common neurodegenerative condition after Alzheimer’s.
The Greenwood support group serves as a place to share experiences with the other members about what has been beneficial in slowing the progression of Parkinson’s disease.
Before starting the support group, Beattie had discovered an activity that has been helping decrease his symptoms, and he recently shared it with the members.
Beattie began taking Rock Steady Boxing classes about four months ago.
He heard about the class from a visiting pastor from Nashville, Tennessee, at his church, First Presbyterian in Greenwood. The visitor has Parkinson’s disease.
“He said, ‘You need to look into this to see if there’s a place to take the course,’” said Beattie.
Rock Steady Boxing, the first boxing program of its kind in the country, was founded in 2006 by a former Indiana prosecutor, Scott C. Newman, who is living with Parkinson’s.
Newman began intense, one-on-one boxing training just a few years after he was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s at age 40. Newman said he witnessed the dramatic improvement in his physical health, agility and daily functioning through the intense and high energy workouts. Newman said his quality of life improved dramatically in a short time due to his fighting back against the disease.
“There’s an institute in Indianapolis that began to study this training regimen, and the researchers there have determined that it helps produce what triggers the dopamine production,” said Beattie.
Beattie said at first he didn’t think there would a place near Greenwood that would offer Rock Steady Boxing.
“There’s only about 40 in the entire country who are qualified to teach it,” he said.
One of those instructors who was certified in Indianapolis offers the class in Grenada, just a 30-minute drive for Beattie.
“You hear all these things about what’s good and what works, and some things don’t click at all, but this clicked,” he said.
Beattie said even though he’s been told it usually takes about six months of training before seeing results, he’s already noticed a reduction in his tremors.
“I can see some positive benefits from it, and my wife notices it,” he said.
At the support group’s recent meeting, someone with Parkinson’s asked Beattie if he also had the disease.
“Anybody who has Parkinson’s is trained to look for it. We instinctively look for it in others. You notice it, and he did not notice it,” said Beattie. “I began to think, ‘I’m not imagining it. Other people are starting to see it, too.’”
Daves said because of Beattie’s experience, he is going to attend a Rock Steady Boxing class soon.
“When you see it working for somebody, that impressed me,” he said. “I’m interested in that, and I’m going to go observe, because I want to be better, or delay the progression.”
Beattie said sharing with the group also keeps him motivated.
“I need motivation to keep going, too,” he said. “That’s one of the problems with this disease, because you always have to keep yourself motivated. It’s easy to get lazy and not want to do anything and withdraw, and that’s the worst thing you can do.”
Daves said it’s important for those with Parkinson’s to share their journeys.
“What I have observed since I’ve been diagnosed is different people have different symptoms,” he said. “There are some people who have only stiffness, some people have tremors and stiffness, and some people have just balance problems. ... It’s just different for different people, and it’s good to hear about what their doctors say and what medicines they take and what medicines we take and just compare notes to see if there’s anything that can help us, like the boxing.”
Greenwood once had a Parkinson’s support group, but it disbanded about 10 years ago. Daves and his wife, Rosalind, were involved with it before his diagnosis for their late daughter, who had a neurological disease.
“They had it once a month over at Larry’s Fish House at that time,” said Daves. “Two people in this group were in the original group.”
After talks between the Daveses and Beattie and his wife, Christie, which began in September 2018, the organizers set the first meeting a couple of months later in November. The second meeting was held Jan. 9.
The group meets on the second Wednesday of every month at 3 p.m. at the Crystal Grill.
The organizers, however, are open to changing the place and time to accommodate the members.
While about 20 came to the first meeting, Beattie said most likely there are many more in Greenwood with the disease.
“It tends to make you withdraw more, and maybe that’s why it’s not widely known how common it is,” said Beattie. “The support group is a way to get people out and get people together and talk about things.”
The February meeting’s guest speaker will be Beattie’s Rock Steady Boxing instructor, Matt Howell of Grenada.
• Contact Ruthie Robison at 581-7233 or firstname.lastname@example.org.