OSGOOD — After over a year of quarantine, a local support group for people with Parkinson’s disease was able to meet in person last week courtesy of a local restaurant.
“We feel so blessed to be together again — I had a nervous-excited belly all day. We’re just really glad to be able to gather again, and we’re very thankful for the Do Good Restaurant here in Osgood to host us,” Dr. Gina Boerger said. “It’s been such a long time since I’ve seen their faces, and they really are like a family to us. We tried to stay in touch virtually, but it’s not the same as being in person.”
Boerger started the area’s Partners in Parkinson’s support group nine years ago with help from her colleague Shannon Condon. Both Boerger and Condon worked at Versailles Rehabilitation and Healthcare Center and after hearing from some of her physical therapy patients about wanting to continue seeing her after their therapy ended, Boerger came up with the idea for the support group. Since then, the group has grown to include people from Darke, Shelby and Miami county and meets the third Wednesday of every month to listen to guest speakers shed light on different aspects of Parkinson’s and discuss different options on dealing with symptoms of the disease.
“Graduates of our therapy program were wanting some more education on the disease and what they could do to live better,” Boerger said.
While the pandemic had a ripple effect on groups and organizations everywhere, Boerger said that the group was fortunate to already have a system in place by offering their members monthly newsletters that had started in June of 2019; with everyone’s contact information on file, they were able to continue keeping in contact with everyone and continue circulating virtual newsletters while everyone stayed home and social distanced.
Returning to in-person meetings was a welcomed change, especially for members like Cindy Huelskamp of Piqua who was one of the early members of the support group when it formed in 2012 after getting her Parkinson’s diagnosis. For her, the support group is a way for her to connect with people who have similar symptoms to her own, and to find out how to cope with those symptoms day-to-day.
“You tend to get in a rut with Parkinson’s, and I live alone. Gathering in-person kind of renews your drive to be better and to take better care of yourself,” Huelskamp said. “It feels great — (the pandemic) was like putting your life on pause, so it’s really good to be back. This group and (Boerger and Condon) have really given a hundred percent. My life has improved thanks to them.”
The support group will continue to meet at the Do Good Restaurant in May and June while Boerger and Condon continue to look for a more permanent meeting location. The meeting to be held May 19 will feature guest speaker Holly Protsman of Acadia Pharmaceuticals and will be centered around Parkinson’s-related hallucinations. The June 16 meeting will be focused on when to make the call to stop driving and will feature guest speaker Michelle Caserta of Catholic Social Services of Miami County.
“Having a diagnosis like Parkinson’s doesn’t mean that every day is worse. It is a progressive disease by nature, but you can live so well with it, and you can live better than you did sometimes before your diagnosis because you involve that exercise,” Boerger said. “Know that help is available, and you can live a wonderful and full life despite that diagnosis.”