Many people celebrate Valentine’s Day with flowers and candy to show love to spouses, family and friends, but Raymond Lawson of Pratt, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease five years ago, said people such as himself are grateful for the every day kind of love shown to them by way of simply being present.
Lawson had some advice for family, caregivers and friends of others with an incurable disease like Parkinson's.
“Just be a support. Encourage them to do physical therapy and to be as physically active as possible to slow down the advance,” Lawson said.
Seventy-eight-year-old Lawson is a member of a Parkinson’s Support Group that meets at noon on the second and fourth Friday of each month at Pratt Regional Medical Center’s Shrack Room for educational programs and to share experiences that give hope.
Other organizers of the support group are Tom Webb and Bette Skaggs.
The next meeting is February 22 and will feature a film about non-motor symptoms of Parkinson's.
Those attending can choose to bring a sack lunch or buy lunch at the hospital cafeteria.
Lawson said he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s from his gait, but there are many other symptoms of the disease, which is a long-term degenerative order of the central nervous system that initially attacks the motor system.
Other non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s can include cognitive challenges, memory problems, feeling tongue-tied, fatigue, sleep problems, anxiety, depression, apathy, loss of smell, numbness or tingling and pain.
There are also non-motor symptoms that can be caused by changes and impairment to the autonomic nervous system which include constipation, frequent need to urinate leading to incontinence, light-headedness, sexual dysfunction, drooling and excessive perspiration.
Of these, Lawson said he was identified with sleep problems, loss of smell and drooling.
“I hadn’t been able to smell for a long time,” Lawson said. “But I didn’t know what that was.”
To be proactive, Lawson has done sessions of physical therapy at PRMC and also participates in the Senior Exercise Class at Blythe Fitness Center at 9 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
“I highly recommend it for all seniors,” Lawson said.
Speech is another aspect of Parkinson’s disease, according to Lawson.
“Your brain tells you that you’re speaking loud, but you’re not,” he said.
PRMC offers a LOUD therapy class, taught by Debbie May, which Lawson completed and said was very helpful.
Taking his own advice to be active, Lawson travels to Hutchinson Thursday nights for dances at the senior citizen center there, where he specializes in the two-step waltz.
He invites others with questions or interest in learning how to deal with Parkinson's to attend the local meetings in Pratt.
“We’re a self-help group,” Lawson said. “Our goal is to provide information and hope.”