MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Group support benefits family caregivers

Judy MacKenzie and Lois Dunham are the contact people for the Penticton Parkinson’s Care Partners Group.

Volunteer organizers Lois Dunham (left) and Judy MacKenzie of a Parkinson's support group look over material at the recent inaugural meeting at the Bethel Pentecostal Tabernacle recently.

When two Penticton ladies discovered the benefits of a support system for those caring for family members with Parkinson’s Disease, they decided it was important to have something similar locally.

Judy MacKenzie and Lois Dunham are the contact people for the Penticton Parkinson’s Care Partners Group.

MacKenzie said she and Dunham realized the benefits in sharing some of the common changes that can occur for those with the disease. which is a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system. The most common symptoms are related to difficulties in walking, slowness of movement and shaking or rigidity in parts of the body.

The two learned about a Parkinson’s group that was happening in Kelowna and decide to attend some sessions to try it out.

“We found just a wonderful group up there that were going through similar types of things,” she said. “Just to walk in the door, and know that all of those people are facing some of the same things that you are, was the support. Knowing that the things that you discussed, they could relate to, was helpful.”

They felt the therapeutic nature of simply coming together and having coffee and sharing their concerns and challenges with a group of like-minded individuals. A person with Parkinson’s will experience physical changes, as well challenges in communicating or interacting with others, especially as the disease progresses, said MacKenzie.

“As it progresses, of course you’re taking on more and more of a role in the home,” she said.

Being able to bring their concerns into the open around a group of like-minded individuals who have been experiencing similar emotions offered some comfort.

“We just realized that we weren’t the only ones that were dealing with this, and that there had to be others out there because Parkinson’s has become such a  well-known disease and a prevalent one,” she said. “We really felt that if we were felt supported by the group in Kelowna that perhaps there was something we could do here in Penticton for others that were going through the same thing.

It is a drop-in, peer support group providing a private and comfortable place to talk about the disease.

The first meeting was held Sept. 18 at Bethel Church with future meetings happening on the third Thursday of each month from 10 a.m. to noon.

“We’re not there to take on the role of doctors or counsellors or anything like that,” said MacKenzie. “It’s really just a group for us to get together and share with each other and to support each other.”

Those interested in attending are asked to contact MacKenzie at or call 250-770-9715.