Marion Family YMCA Helps People With Parkinson’s Delay the Disease

What looks from the outside like a regular training class with high-energy trainers, equipment, and a room full of hard-working attendees, the Marion Family YMCA is helping with “Delay the Disease” to make being diagnosed with Parkinson’s less scary.

A specialized 7-week session focused on combating the degenerative disease through targeted exercises to delay symptoms. The course is the product of a collaboration between the Marion Family YMCA, OhioHealth and the Marion Community Foundation.

In 2012, YMCA staff were approached by the Marion Community Foundation to look into OhioHealth’s program, said YMCA Wellness Director Heather Wright.

As Wellness Director, Wright oversees all classes offered by the Y. Still, she said Delay the Disease was her favorite.

“It has always been my favorite course. I just think there’s something special about people in it, and I love to see them progress and do better, and I think a lot of that is the social aspect for them,” she said.

“It would be devastating to receive that diagnosis, so for them they just like other people’s support, so it’s just a support group, but it’s also a practice group.”

Each year, the Marion Community Foundation has provided the grants to purchase equipment and train trainers for the course offered to people with the neurological condition, many of whom are male as it more commonly affects males, and their caregivers.

These include exercises that address the freezing, hunched posture, slower gait, or difficulty in writing that often accompanies the condition. Participants take “big strides” through the gym, work on their handwriting, and practice skills like getting out of a chair or preventing falls.

“Starting diagnosis early is key to minimizing as many symptoms as possible, improving their quality of life, and trying to reverse some of their body movements and retrain their bodies and minds,” Wright said.

Instructors Cheri Harrod and Beth Hensel now lead the class four times a week, surrounded by 20 to 30 people working to retrain their bodies and minds to fight the brain disorder that causes involuntary or uncontrollable movements such as tremors, stiffness and balance problems and Coordination.

“I salute Beth Hensel and Cheri Harrod – they are the key instructors in the class and have been for years. They’ve developed this great relationship with them, and they’re all very close, and I think it’s very emotional for them,” Wright said.

Beth Hensel helps a participant with the

Harrod, who has taught the class for 10 years, explained that the class is not just a job for her, it has become a family.

She has watched and supported people as they overcome the challenges of their Parkinson’s disease, including a man who called her after hours because he was having trouble breathing after accidentally swallowing a butterscotch candy, or another whose gait she corrected.

“It’s big business. I really love what you do and you can make a difference and you can see it, it gives me great satisfaction and a great feeling to know that I’m helping them,” Harrod said.

The grants also allow staff to take benchmark tests every 16 weeks, allowing those who continue to take the course to challenge themselves and see their progress. These include a one-legged stand to check balance, a 10-meter walk, a sit-on-stand test, and a quality of life questionnaire.

“It’s also empowering for them to have these benchmarks to check their progress at the beginning and end,” Wright explained.

Beyond the four days a week that the class practices together, participants often get together for lunch and events, and the YMCA tries to hold an event or two each year.

For example, on June 9 at 10:30 a.m., neurologist Dr. Shnehal C. Patel of OhioHealth Movement Disorders will give a presentation on a Parkinson’s drug, NOURIANZ. Prior registration is required on the pharmaceutical company’s website.

OhioHealth also has onsite physical therapists who work with people, including physical therapy assistants who are Delay the Disease certified and can assist when needed and recommend that their clients who need additional help or support attend the course.

“It’s not just about the physical, it’s also about each other: being with others who are going through the same damn thing. It’s just such a family and I love it. I just love it there,” said Harrod.

Delay the Disease is offered by the Marion Family YMCA in seven-week sessions Monday through Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. The class is $17 for the entire session for YMCA members and $70 for non-members. There is also the option of a one-time trial session.

Story by: Sophia Veneziano (740) 564 – 5243 | [email protected]

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