Parkinson’s group looks to expand its support

Chairman Margaret Stewart and secretary Ann Pearse manning an information stand at Southlands Hospital neurology clinic
Chairman Margaret Stewart and secretary Ann Pearse manning an information stand at Southlands Hospital neurology clinic
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VALUABLE support for people with Parkinson’s is provided by volunteers in the Herald and Gazette area.

Worthing and District Branch of Parkinson’s UK has members from Littlehampton in the west to Southwick in the east, and north as far as Arundel and Pulborough.

Members of the Worthing and District Branch of Parkinson's UK listening to a speaker at one of the monthly branch meetings

Members of the Worthing and District Branch of Parkinson's UK listening to a speaker at one of the monthly branch meetings

The support group is run by volunteers for people with Parkinson’s, their families and carers. It is one of 350 local groups across the UK supported by professional staff at Parkinson’s UK, the main support and research charity.

Rod Herod, member and volunteer, said: “One person in every 500 has Parkinson’s – that’s around 127,000 people in the UK – and a significant number are members of the local groups.

“In Worthing and district, we have 270 members of which 80 or so are involved in the various activities organised and run by the volunteer committee members.

“I am also a person with Parkinson’s, having been diagnosed in 2009. Parkinson’s is a progressive neurological condition for which there is no cure.”

The main symptoms of slowness, tremor, rigidity and fatigue affect a person’s mobility and balance. The symptoms vary from person to person but everything takes longer to do as a result.

Rod added: “Regular medication does help with the symptoms but there is a need to provide support for people at a local level and this is the fundamental basis for the activities available in Worthing and district.

“We offer friendship and support through regular events and social activity and we issue a quarterly newsletter, Parkinsons’s Progress, detailing the programme and reporting of events by the members.

“We know that some people when first diagnosed with Parkinson’s often choose to deal with the implications for everyday life themselves or are unaware of the help and support available from the local group. The newsletter provides contact details of where to get this help.”

The Worthing and district branch is an active group and runs regular monthly meetings with interesting guest speakers and topics. It provides various levels of physiotherapist-led weekly and monthly exercise classes, a weekly indoor bowls group, hydrotherapy class, speech therapy class and regular discussion sessions for carers.

In addition, there is a popular monthly lunch club with an average attendance of around 50 visiting local restaurants and day-long outings slightly further afield.

Rod said: “This level of activity takes a lot of effort to plan and organise and we are always looking for new volunteers to help. Should anyone wish to be a volunteer helper, please contact our chairman, Margaret Stewart, on 01903 779097 for a chat.

“It also takes a concerted fundraising effort to provide for all the activities.”

Funding for a typical year’s programme comes from things like collecting tins, members’ events, a tombola stall at Findon Sheep Fair, monthly raffles.

Some activities are funded through entry charges and every now and again, the finances receive a boost from legacy and memorial donations. One-off donations are also received from sponsored events by members.

Rod said: “We are planning to set up a dedicated fundraising sub-committee and would welcome new volunteers with new ideas to help with the work.

“At the moment, our support is directed at and only available to our members. We know that there are more people whose lives are affected by Parkinson’s in the Worthing and Littlehampton areas who are not members.

“We also know that there are some people with Parkinson’s living just outside our area to the north who are also not included in our activities.

“Our aim is to ensure that everyone diagnosed with Parkinson’s and their families and carers join with us in gaining benefit from existing and future support activities.

“We aim to establish a member’s sub-group in the neighbouring area of Mid Sussex. To do this, we need more volunteer helpers and increased charitable funding.”

Visit www.parkinsons.org.uk for more information.