April-May 2019 | Features

Happy birthday Parkinson’s UK

Happy birthday Parkinson’s UK

This year marks 50 years since the Parkinson’s Disease Society, now Parkinson’s UK, was founded in a one-room office in Putney, London. Since then, the charity has been single-minded in its purpose to find a cure and improve life for everyone affected by Parkinson’s – a condition which can devastate lives.

The vital work which Parkinson’s UK does is completely dependent on donations.

But thankfully, to date, nearly 250 Rotary clubs across Great Britain and Ireland have helped with the charity’s mission to find a cure and improve the lives of people with Parkinson’s by raising over £157,000.


So what is Parkinson’s and what more can be done to help?

One in 37 of us will be diagnosed with Parkinson’s in our lifetime. It is a progressive neurological condition that causes problems in the brain and gets worse over time.

Parkinson’s is an extremely complex condition, it has over 40 symptoms and affects everyone completely differently – making it harder to diagnose.

The three main symptoms of Parkinson’s are tremor, muscle stiffness and slowness of movement.

Breakthrough new treatments are being tested in clinical trials that have the potential to slow, stop or even reverse Parkinson’s.”

But it’s important to stress that not everyone will experience all of these.

Some of the less well-known symptoms are stress and anxiety, chronic pain and fatigue, loss of smell and changes in digestion or sleep.

Research suggests that 80% of people who have had Parkinson’s for 10 years will develop dementia. This is because the condition spreads from parts of the brain involved with movement to other areas that are needed for thinking and memory.

We don’t yet know exactly why people get Parkinson’s, but researchers think it’s a combination of genetic and environmental factors that combine and eventually lead to the condition.


How can Rotary clubs make a difference?

The money raised by Rotarians has been invested in research to find the causes of the condition, so the charity can develop ways to spot it earlier and new treatments to slow, stop or even reverse its effects in the future.

In the past 50 years, vital discoveries have been made that have revolutionised our understanding of Parkinson’s and the brain.

Research suggests that 80% of people who have had Parkinson’s for 10 years will develop dementia.”

Now, thanks to this progress, breakthrough new treatments are being tested in clinical trials that have the potential to slow, stop or even reverse Parkinson’s.

These include stem cell therapies which aim to use healthy, living cells to replace or repair the damage in the brains of people with Parkinson’s.

The charity is also investigating repurposing drugs that are already approved to treat other conditions – including diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure – to understand their potential benefits for Parkinson’s.

The more the charity is able to invest in research, the faster it will be able to deliver, so Parkinson’s UK is working hard to raise the funds we need to drive things forward faster.


Support for people when they need it most

Parkinson’s UK’s vital support services are there for those affected by the condition and the money raised by Rotarians has a crucial role to play here too.

The helpline is the frontline of the charity’s support system, and last year it answered over 30,000 calls from people UK-wide in desperate need of help, providing them with the specific information and advice they need.

The money has also helped to fund Parkinson’s UK’s specialist Parkinson’s nurses who are located across the country to help people better manage their medication and symptoms.

parkinsons research

Parkinson’s scientists are working hard to find a cure.

And Parkinson’s UK’s local advisers, who provide emotional, practical and financial support visited 4,500 people in their homes last year.

Alongside all this, Parkinson’s UK facilitates 365 local groups which provide a sense of social belonging where many have become isolated due to their condition.


Can your club help?

Rotary clubs have helped to make a huge difference to the lives of people with Parkinson’s over the past 50 years, and now Parkinson’s UK is encouraging more clubs to get involved.

Steve Parkin is a member of the Ashford Rotary Club in Kent and has helped to raise thousands of pounds for Parkinson’s UK.

He said: “I was President of the Ashford Rotary Club in 2017 and I nominated Parkinson’s UK as our charity to support for that year.

“I decided to support the charity because I’m aware of the impact Parkinson’s has on people’s lives and how serious the condition is.

“My mother was a nurse and she supported people with Parkinson’s for many years, and I knew another Rotarian who had the condition and eventually he passed away.

“Our club managed to raise £4,000 for Parkinson’s UK which went towards supporting people affected by Parkinson’s in the area.

parkinson's uk fundraiser

Steve Parkin and his Rotary club raised over £4,000 to support people with Parkinson’s in his area.

“My wife and I have since become members of the local Parkinson’s UK branch. It’s been great to help where we can and I’ll be the group’s Chairman from April this year.

“I’d really encourage other Rotary clubs to get involved and support Parkinson’s UK.

“As a member of the local Parkinson’s UK group, I’ve seen first-hand the importance of supporting people with Parkinson’s to help improve the lives of everyone affected.”


To find out how can support Parkinson’s UK, please visit their website.

For a special anniversary fundraising pack please call:  020 7963 3912 or email: fundraising@parkinsons.org.uk

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