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5:45 AM Tue, Sept. 25th

Support available for Prescott-area Parkinson's patients: Paws for Parkinson's walk Saturday

As many as one million Americans live with Parkinson's disease, and approximately 60,000 are diagnosed each year, according to the Parkinson's Disease Foundation website. And according to a press release from the American Parkinson Disease Association in Arizona, an estimated 700 Yavapai County residents live with Parkinson's.

Each of those 700 individuals has friends and family who deal daily with the stress of caring for them - a task made easier by active support groups in the quad city area.

Support groups in Prescott and Cottonwood meet monthly, addressing a variety of topics related to health and quality of life. The Prescott PD support group - the largest in Arizona - meets from 10 to 11:30 a.m. the third Thursday of every month at First Lutheran Church, 231 Smoke Tree Lane, Prescott.

A Care Partner support group, for caregivers, meets from 10 to 11:30 a.m. the second Tuesday of each month at Mountain Valley Regional Rehabilitation Hospital, 3700 N. Windsong Drive, Prescott Valley.

"The support group really kind of leads the charge," said Judy Talley, program director for American Parkinson Disease Association in Arizona.

When people get a diagnosis of Parkinson's, they will live two or three more decades, Talley said: "Being able to go to a support group and hear from professionals and talk to other people who have been there is really valuable."

Also helpful are the Parkinson's-specific exercise classes held at Yavapai Regional Medical Center Wellness Center.

YRMC Wellness Center offers both community classes and - with a physician's prescription - speech, occupational and physical therapy. Therapists are trained in Lee Silverman Voice Therapy, a Parkinson's program patients know as "Loud," explained Susan Connor, director of physical rehabilitation.

The physical therapy component, Power Moves, is known as "Big," Connor added. Patients practice exercises broken down into parts, such as getting out of a chair and rolling over, she said.

"Exercise is one of the best medications for Parkinson's disease," she said.

The Parkinson's Disease Exercise Class is from 10 to 11 a.m. Monday and Wednesday at the Prescott clinic and Tuesday and Thursday at Del Webb in Prescott Valley.

The Big Exercise Class, often taken by patients who've completed therapy, happens twice a month, from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. on the first and third Tuesdays in Prescott. Because Parkinson's patients' movements get small and slow, it focuses on balance and big movements.

"The people who come to exercise classes support each other," Connor said.

Patients pay $3 per class; caregivers attend for free.

YRMC is one of the sponsors for this Saturday's Paws for Parkinson's Walk and Expo. Other sponsors for the event, a fundraising walk for pooches and people, are Mountain Valley Regional Rehabilitation Hospital and Medtronic.

"Part of it is fundraising and the other part is fun," said Talley, the event leader.

Those with Parkinson's and the people who love them are invited to come out for a springtime morning walk - alone or in groups, with or without a dog. Dogs must be leashed and well-behaved.

A $25 registration fee affords walkers chances to win prizes and raffle items, as well as a sack lunch. A hundred percent of the money raised will go to benefit quad city- and Verde Valley-area Parkinson's support groups, exercise and therapy programs, educational events and facilitation of volunteer efforts offered by support groups, area health care providers and services.

Registration for Paws for Parkinson's begins at 9 a.m.; the walk starts at 10. The 1.6-mile course starts at Mountain Valley Regional Rehabilitation Hospital, 3700 N. Windsong Drive, Prescott Valley, and covers quiet sidewalks with rest stops along the way.

A shuttle from Alta Vista Retirement community circles the route to return walkers to the parking lot when they're done - or, if needed, pick them up along the way.

"It's great fun," Talley said. "Nobody needs to feel like they're going to be stranded out there."

The expo will include vendor tables with activities for everyone - including dogs.

Participants can register online at paws4pd.kintera.org. For more info, or if you prefer not to register online, call Talley at 928-202-7952 or email Judy.Talley1@gmail.com.

Follow Arlene on Twitter @ahittle_dc.