Cork needs Parkinson's nurses to help patients in their homes
Over 920 people in Cork are affected by Parkinson's
When Tony Wilkinson began to drop things, freezing for no apparent reason when walking, they were he now knows the early symptoms of Parkinson's.
Tony (now 59) was living in London three years ago with his Bandon-born wife Kate when he was diagnosed with Parkinson's.
Parkinson's Disease is a long-term degenerative disorder of the central nervous system which mainly affects the motor system. Symptoms generally come on slowly over time and symptoms include shaking, rigidity, shuffling gait with short steps, a forward tilt of the body, and reduced arm-swinging and stiffness of the body. There is no cure.
He was working in the highly skilled network of fibre optics and devised planning routes of cables throughout London. He said with a smile that he knows every inch of city and where its fibre cables lie. However, he told The Corkman, that the couple decided to return to Kate’s native Bandon two years ago as he didn’t feel secure going on the underground anymore as his Parkinson’s became worse.
When he began living in Bandon, a place he had visited with Kate countless times, he soon realised that there wasn't a Parkinson's Support Group in the region, so he set one up and soon others followed in Bandon, Skibbereen, Youghal and Fermoy.
He also organised a meeting in Mallow on Wednesday, April 11 and it's his aim that anyone who has Parkinson's needs support, as do their families and loved ones.
"People with Parkinson's need a lot of support. In the UK, there are specialist Parkinson's nurses who work in the community but not in Ireland. There are 920 people living with Parkinson's in Cork but if we had just three nurses that would be one nurse to every 300 patients; it would make a great difference. It is cost-effective rather than keeping a person in hospital," he said.
"We are prepared to fund-raise for especially trained Parkinsons nurses. It would truly make the world of difference if a person can be seen in their own home by a nurse," said Tony.
He explained that in the UK a nurse visits the home and can adjust medications. They also attend support-group meetings.
"Ireland in reality needs 32 nurses as the number of people with Parkinsons is set to double in the next decade due to the demographic age profile," he said. "We want the Government to give these nures. In fact, if we do get the nurses and they are not trained, then the support groups will send them to the UK for training."
Living with Parkinsons is extremely difficult, which Tony readily agrees and recognises. "I love Bandon where I live, as I said I couldn't continue to live in London," he said. "But, I have to fight to get out of bed every day to go and do my exercises and attend the support groups. I also run a fitness club, the movers and shakers, and we use smovies, which are specialist equipment for people with Parkinson's."
Tony showed The Corkman a video of him out walking with a smovey ring. A Smovey ring combines exercise and vibrations which have beneficial applications for Parkinson’s. Inside the hand-held rings are steel balls. Once the rings begin to swing,the balls move up and down in the tube which cause vibrations to travel up the arms and into the brain and body
According to Tony, the smovey has greatly improved his life but using them consistently is one key to retaining muscle tone and they provide a great feel good factor.
Along with getting three nurses for the Cork region, Tony is hoping that anyone who has Parkinson's in the Mallow or North Cork region will join the group in Mallow.
"It is so important that people and their families meet up. I was diagnosed three years ago and will be 60 years old in May. I have got so many phone calls from people looking for help and when there's a group of people together it makes all the difference," he said.
Anyone who has Parkinson's or has a family member with Parkinson's can contact Tony on 083 8643676.