March 27, 2013
Honourable senators, Parkinson’s Awareness Month in Canada begins next week. Parkinson’s is a chronic, degenerative, neurological disease caused by a loss of dopamine in the brain. Close to 100,000 Canadians have Parkinson’s. Symptoms are commonly treated with prescription medications and physiotherapy, however there is no cure. Although Parkinson’s is usually diagnosed in those aged 60 or over, it can affect people as young as 30 or 40.
Parkinson Society Canada celebrates caregivers this year by making April’s awareness theme “Managing Parkinson’s Disease is a Family Affair.” A diagnosis of Parkinson’s affects the entire family. Daily care and quality of life is possible thanks to a cohesive team including doctors, health care professionals and family members.
In 2012, Parkinson Society Canada launched the first Canadian guidelines on Parkinson’s disease. The guidelines are targeted to educate health care professionals on symptoms, diagnosis and treatment. They also recognize the importance of educating family members and providing access to the same information and service as the person diagnosed.
Often, a close relative takes on the role of primary caregiver. Each family and their care partners build a plan that works for them. There are more than 400,000 family members in Canada who understand that well.
During April, the Parkinson’s community asks that we focus on families and the impact Parkinson’s can have on those close to a person living with the disease. Caregivers are at risk for their own health problems if appropriate support systems are not available in the health network and community.
Since 1965, Parkinson Society Canada has been dedicated to improving quality of life for Canadians living with Parkinson’s through education, advocacy and support services. They also provide support to health care professionals. Parkinson Society Canada’s national research program funds innovative research to test new ideas that are vital in the global search for better treatments and a cure. Since 1981, more than $21 million have been invested in over 400 research projects.
Honourable senators, this year’s Parkinson’s Awareness Month celebrates caregivers. It is likely all honourable senators know someone living with Parkinson’s and are aware of the challenges they and their caregivers face on a daily basis. Many are in need of support. It is essential that services and programs are readily available, not only in acute care settings but in the community as well.
Please join me in paying tribute to caregivers in Canada as we recognize April as Parkinson’s Awareness Month.