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Local support for Parkinson’s sufferers

The first symptom of Parkinson's is the loss of taste and smell

July 22 was World Brain Day and 2020 is dedicated to raising awareness to improve the lives of those living with Parkinson’s disease and their caregivers.

Did you know an East Rand Parkinson’s disease support group meeting takes place once a month in Benoni (but is not being run now due to lockdown restrictions)?

The group meets on the last Thursday of the month at 10am at Rynpark Six, 19 Parker Street, Rynfield.

Heather Smith, a resident of Rynpark, took the group over about seven years ago by which time it had been running for three years.

“At that time there were only about nine people who attended. We are now a group of 40,” Heather said.

The group provides relevant literature, hints for daily living and invites guest speakers, like speech therapists and dietitians, to the meetings.

The City Times paid the support group a visit in October, 2018, when Karin Willemse, the national director of the Parkinson’s Association of South Africa, was the guest speaker.


Parkinson’s SA director brings smiles to Benoni support group faces

Karin said at the time that, sadly, her passion for her work was not going to keep the doors of the association open. They had no funding and she was already running the assocation from home and working voluntarily. According to Heather, the association has now closed its doors, but, as Karin promised, she has remained a support to her “star” group in Benoni.

Heather explained that her husband suffered for many years from Parkinson’s disease.

“It has been a privilege to be involved in the support group and, with Elsabe Els, the social worker at Rynpark, we will endeavour to keep the group going as long as we can,” Heather said. “Of course, due to lockdown we are unable to have meetings, but will start again as soon as possible. Fortunately, we do have a WhatsApp group and are able to keep in touch with group members this way.”

For more information about the East Rand Parkinson’s disease support group contact Heather on 011 849 8509.

These are some of the interesting facts and tips Karin shared at the meeting:

  • The first symptom of Parkinson’s is the loss of taste and smell.
  • As sufferers can be prone to constipation, pumpkin seeds are an excellent remedy and source of fibre.
  • Parkinson’s sufferers burn a lot of energy and, therefore, need extra nutrients. They should have at least five small meals a day.
  • Many side effects are caused by medication.
  • Dribbling and a tartar build-up are common side effects of the disease. Exercising the mouth muscles through blowing up a balloon, or chewing marshmallows, for example, assists greatly with this.
  • Parkinson’s patients have excellent reflexes, but slow movement.
  • A patient’s mind can be 100 per cent.

The TRAP explanation of symptoms is:

  • T: Tremor
  • R: Rigidity
  • A: Akinesia (the loss of ability to move your muscles voluntarily)
  • P: Postural Instability.


Out-thinking Parkinsons Disease: Gary Sharpe’s story

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