By Mah Noor, April 6 2021—
The Parkinson’s Healthy Living Program was brought to the Scholar’s Academy at the University of Calgary by program lead Adam Retsinas as a community service project.
Retsinas has a long history of working with vulnerable geriatric populations through long-term care and assisted living facilities in Ontario and Alberta which sparked his interest in developing a seminar-based program for individuals living with Parkinson’s disease. After bringing the project to the Scholar’s Academy he was provided with a talented, dedicated team of other undergraduate students to help him develop and carry out the program.
Retsinas and his team are hoping to launch the project in May 2021 as a virtual and free program for those with Parkinson’s and their caretakers. While the team has been challenged by the ongoing pandemic, they are determined to make a difference through their program.
“At the end of the day our top priority is helping people with Parkinson’s, but we are trying to do this while navigating through a pandemic so it is a little bit difficult,” remarked Retsinas.
The program developed by Retsinas and his team is based on other successful programs for neurodegenerative diseases. It aims to combine several aspects of those programs to offer patients and caregivers a multidisciplinary approach to handling their care and well-being.
The Parkinson’s Healthy Living Program focuses on three components through which it seeks to elevate the quality of life of participants — health education, exercise and support. The team is aiming for the seminars to be approximately two and a half hours long, with a one hour exercise component followed by a one hour education component with a half an hour break between the two. The exercise component will be assisted by physiotherapists and specially designed for people with Parkinson’s to manage their movement problems and address common problems that patients have such as preventing falls. The education component will teach about a variety of topics about Parkinson’s and related disorders. In this component, the team is hoping to continue to address common problems faced by Parkinson’s patients as well as provide community resources.
The team also hopes that by providing regular seminars and support they will be able to foster a sense of community to individuals who may be feeling especially isolated by the ongoing pandemic. This program will allow Parkinson’s patients and their caregivers to meet other people who are going through similar struggles as they are given the opportunity to ask questions and learn more about their disease and how to manage it. By including caregivers, the program will allow both the patients and the caregivers to learn how to help each other and work together.
The reason Retsinas wanted to focus on Parkinson’s specifically is because it is an illness that can affect many aspects of life. The disease affects and hinders how patients live and interact with the world around them. Due to this, Retsinas felt that patients needed to be supported in multiple aspects of their lives. There are multiple facets of their disease that need to be managed and addressed for them to live better and healthier lives.
Retsinas felt that individuals with Parkinson’s especially would benefit from a multidisciplinary approach that addressed many of the issues they live with in a comprehensive and intensive program. Rather than be the only resource for Parkinson’s patients, Retsinas aims for this program to be one of many sources that patients can turn to to receive more information about how to live healthier with Parkinson’s and he hopes that his program can work with other organizations, rather than compete with them, to offer patients more support as they navigate their lives living with this disease.
“We are trying to separate ourselves as being different, but at the same time, similar, and so we hope to work with other Parkinson’s-related organizations to help people with Parkinson’s disease because at the end of the day they are the most important people in all of this.” said Retsinas.
For more information about the program, visit their website.