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Bernice Peichl has been going to support group meetings for over a decade.

Peichl’s husband Vern was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2004, and looking for a support group was one of the first things she did.

“I joined immediately and over the years I’ve learned about the resources that are available,” Peichl said. “I thought, ‘I have to learn all I can about this disease.’”

“I’ve been at it for 14 years and everyone in our group is at different levels. If we have any problems, there will be someone in the group with answers to deal with those problems.”

Peichl says everything is flipped upside down when a person is taking care of a loved one with Parkinson’s, but having a support system that understands the struggle is vital.

“You’re now looking after a person who needs aid in a number of different areas,” she said. “Your friends will ask how you are but you don’t want to unload that on them.”

Peichl was speaking to the media after her Monday morning support group. Parkinson Canada was also at the meeting to announce it has opened two new caregiver support groups in Manitoba, including an additional group in Winnipeg and a new one in Brandon.

Parkinson Canada says the number of people with the neurodegenerative disease is expected to increase sharply in the next 13 years, meaning the number of caregivers and families affected will also spike.

Parkinson Canada Community development coordinator Donna Greening says that is due to improvements in early detection.

“Right now there are about 6,800 and we’re expecting that to double by 2031,” Greening said. “Caregivers will have an increased role in taking over the physical duties for a person with Parkinson’s as their symptoms increase.”

“It also means that their social circle will become smaller because their role will become greater. They have more of a tendency to stay home so it becomes challenging for them to look after their needs and they have an increased risk of having stress, anxiety, depression and other health issues because they’re not looking after themselves.”

Peichl knows this all too well.

“I have a husband who isn’t the husband he was 14 years ago,” Peichl said. “But you have to go find a solution and move on to what you can do.”

Greening says right now they only have support groups in Winnipeg and Brandon but they are looking to expand to other parts of the province.

“There’s a lot more of Manitoba we service where these groups aren’t available,” she said. “It’s a matter of finding someone who can run a group like this. If there is someone in one of those communities that has that skill set, contact us and we will work with you to increase this service in Manitoba.”

Parkinson Canada says it has a number of resources for people. It has also opened registration for its annual Parkinson Canada SuperWalk, which takes place this year on Sept. 15.

More information can be found at Parkinson.ca.

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