2008-09-05 / News

Expert speaks about Parkinson's

By Jackie Perrone jacper@bellsouth.net

Dr. Abraham Lieberman fought off polio in childhood, which left him with a permanent limp and a dedication to a career of treating the victims of Parkinson's. He spoke to more than 300 visitors who attended a symposium in West Columbia on August 22. He is director of the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center in Phoenix, Ariz. and brought them up to date on current research, new medications, and positive approaches to managing Parkinson's.

"We don't know why people get Parkinson's, and we don't have a cure for it," he said. "A lot of research is going on to get more answers, and treatment improves all the time. There's plenty of room for hope."

This Parkinson's specialist puts great emphasis on the advantages of exercise, physical therapy, and efforts to maintain proper posture for these patients. He has found that the progression of motor difficulties can be delayed with upright posture and regular exercise.

"If you have difficulty swallowing or speaking, hold your chin up. It stretches the throat and helps. Forget what your mother taught you, and put your elbows on the table. It raises your head and your body.

"Patients who use walkers should have the handles raised to a comfortable height. Most walkers are too low for their handlers and require the person to stoop in order to move."

Eleanor Hanna was diagnosed with Parkinson's 15 years ago. She credits the slow advancement of the disease to good medical care, excellent drug therapy, and the loving devotion of her two daughters, Ann Thompson and Cleva Hutcheson.

"I'd like to stress to everyone the importance of getting an early diagnosis and some quick intervention," she says. "Being in denial of the symptoms and pretending they're going to go away on their own just puts you further behind in your treatment. I was very lucky to start a good treatment regime at an early stage."

Hanna took the drug Requip for nearly 10 years, and it offered good control and help. Eventually, though, its benefits weaken. Now she takes Sinemet and Stalevo which keeps the tremors and balance problems under control.

"We went to the Symposium to see what more we can learn about anything that will help our mother," her two daughters said. "She tries to do everything possible to keep going, and we're going to help her with exercise and stretching movements."

This family and many others rely on local support groups for information and encouragement. The audience for Dr. Lieberman's talk came from the three nearest states as well as from across South Carolina. Locally, two Parkinson's support groups meet regularly: The Columbia group, formed in 1985, meets the third Sunday of every month at Lexington Medical Park auditorium. Visit Columbiaparkinsonssupportgroup. org or call 803- 604-0061. In Northeast Columbia, the support group meets the fourth Thursday of each month at The Waterford. Call Paulette Freeman at 803-296-3102.

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