- An incurable illness of the central nervous system, Parkinson's disease affects more than 20,000 people in Wisconsin.
Dr. Jeanne Pallagi, a neurologist at Ascension St. Mary's Hospital in Rhinelander, says living with the disease can be difficult.
"Parkinson's disease can have several different symptoms … rigidity, which is stiffness, or interrupted movement, tremor and balance concerns," said Pallagi.
At a Parkinson's support group meeting in Minocqua Tuesday, people learned how therapy animals can make living with those symptoms easier.
"That's an area where dogs can really be a supplement to help them with their disease," said animal trainer Carol Lofquist.
Lofquist is the owner of TLC dog training in Minocqua. She's trained therapy animals since 2007. She says they can do range of helpful tasks people with Parkinson's may need.
"They can help with balance if they fall. Anything that people drop they can pick up. They can alert them," explained Lofquist.
Lofquist says large, gentle dogs are the best pets for people struggling with the disease.
"That's what we're looking for, a calmer dog," added Lofquist.
While slowing down can make living with Parkinson's easier, Dr. Pallagi says staying active can actually be effective treatment.
"There have been studies that show regular exercise and especially rhythmical exercise can be beneficial to slow the course," said Pallagi.
Retired dance teacher, Melanie Panush Lindert, hopes to keep people with Parkinson's moving at an exercise class this summer.
"What they need more than anything is to move," said Lindert.
Through a grant from the Wisconsin Parkinson's Association, Lindert will host an eight week dance course at the Minocqua Public Library. The one hours classes will start Monday June 3 at 10 a.m. and run through July 22.
"We will be sitting, we will be standing. We will be moving for those that can move. Our main goal is to find joy in movement," explained Lindert.
Registration for Lindert's class is required by May 28. To register, call the Minocqua Public Library at (715) 356-4437.
Written By: Stephen Goin