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[back] Therapeutic trip Anthony Thanasayan (The Star) - 4 April 2013

Wheel Power (The Star Newspaper)

Therapeutic trip

April 4, 2013
By Anthony Thanasayan

Parks and public places should be made disabled-friendly so that wheelchair-users can frequent them, too.

A SMALL group of adventurers from the KL-based Malaysian Parkinson's Disease Association (MPDA) made a three-day trip to Penang recently.

The group consists of four Parkinson's patients, five caregivers and four volunteers.

Their mission? To set up a new chapter on the island so that Parkinson's patients will be able to receive help and support.

The four Parkinson's patients, aged between 50 and 70, were diagnosed with the disease 10 years ago. Although they do not require wheelchairs for mobility, they have to rely on some physical support and care due to their slow movements and poor balance.

"We went in three cars. Our journey started at 10.30am and we reached our destination at about 5pm. We did not want to rush anyone, and wanted to make our trip as leisurely as possible," said Sara Lew, president of MPDA. "We went a day before the event and returned a day after, to make our trip as comfortable and stress-free as possible for our passengers with disabilities."

They made stops at regular intervals during the journey to give the passengers a chance to get out of the car to stretch their limbs and use the washrooms.

"Because our group was not at an advanced stage of the disease, they were able to walk on their own and go to the washroom without aid. They just needed someone to walk next to them in case they lose their footing or someone knocked into them," said Lew. "The entire experience was therapeutic for everyone. They were able to forget about their condition for a while and enjoy the change of scenery." Lew pointed out that this was an important part of the treatment process for Parkinson's patients - to help them stay on top of their condition.

"The mouth-watering delicacies from a variety of street food during our stopovers in Perak and Penang brought smiles to their faces. And so did the brief visits to the park," Lew added. She pointed out that such places should be made disabled-friendly so that people in wheelchairs can frequent them as part of their rehabilitation process.
The half-day forum proved to be very informative for the 150 participants who turned up at Complex Masyarakat Penyayang in Penang where the event was held.

The speakers included a neurologist, a psychiatrist and a neurosurgeon. Participants got to hear about Parkinson's disease and its crippling effects on patients, and deep brain stimulation surgery.

Age is the most consistent risk factor. In the brain, cells that produce a chemical called dopamine, die off, and patients develop slowness, stiffness, shaking and difficulty in walking. As the disease worsens, cognitive and behavioural problems may arise.

It used to be thought of as a motor problem, but experts now know that Parkinson's disease is a motor and non-motor problem. For example, sleep problems such as insomnia, fragmentation of sleep, depression, anxiety, constipation and loss of sense of smell are non-motor features of Parkinson's disease.

The cause of the disease is unknown though many factors - such as exposure to insecticides or pesticides - could increase the risk of getting the disease. Whilst Parkinson's disease is still not curable, it can be treated with a number of medications to eliminate symptoms and help patients live as normally as possible. For more information on Parkinson's and how to join the Penang support group, please contact MPDA (Mr Looi 03-7980 6685/ 017- 8871859).

Source : http://thestar.com.my/columnists/story.asp?file=/2013/4/4/columnists/wheelpower/12915275&sec=wheelpower