How long have you been working with people with Parkinson’s?
It started with a personal training session with one lady who had Parkinson’s. That was 13 years ago.
what kind of work do you do?
I work as a fitness/exercise specialist (Certified Personal/Group trainer). With regard to specific work I provide for people living with Parkinson’s, I am a PWR!Moves instructor, as well as a Rock Steady Boxing coach and affiliate owner. More recently, I developed DOPABEATS, a Parkinson’s-specific drumming program incorporating rhythm and music as tools to combat some of the motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s. I have also been the facilitator for our local Parkinson’s support group for the last seven years.
why did you get into this work?
It wasn’t intentional! I met an amazing lady named Donna who lived with Parkinson’s, and I began training her one-on-one. She responded well, and I began to research Parkinson’s to find out all I could. This lovely lady asked me to speak at her support group, and I was struck by their courage, their fight, their humour, their joy. The group asked me to develop a Parkinson’s-specific exercise program—”Taming the Dragon”—and I’ve been conducting Parkinson’s exercise programs in my home town ever since!
What do you enjoy most about your job?
Through the years, I have made strong bonds with so many people who live with Parkinson’s. In fact, some of my best friends are those I’ve met through the work I do. I am constantly surprised by their resilience, even on days when things aren’t so easy for them. I feel like I make a real and tangible difference in their lives, and that is extremely rewarding to me.
What is something you wish all of your clients understood about the work you do?
I wish that every single person living with Parkinson’s would understand the importance of exercising every single day. This is a tough expectation for anyone to live up to; the nature of Parkinson’s, itself, acts as a barrier to getting off the couch from both physical and cognitive standpoints.
What advice do you have for allied health professionals who are considering pursuing a similar path?
Thoroughly research Parkinson’s. Spend time with people living with Parkinson’s and listen to their stories. Attend support group meetings. Understand that Parkinson’s has many faces; no two experiences with Parkinson’s are alike. Most important, don’t treat people with Parkinson’s like they are fragile. You can push them (within their limits), and they’re capable of much more more than you might realize. Certainly, more than they even do.
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