It takes a team to battle Parkinson’s Disease; see how to get help locally

Published 12:10 am Thursday, October 19, 2023

Wanda Simar passed away on July 23.

However, her passion, grace and determination are felt, especially with the return of the Orange County Parkinson Support Group.

Simar is one of the group’s cofounders.

Wanda had Parkinson’s Disease — a brain disorder that causes unintended or uncontrollable movements — for more than 20 years. “The disease didn’t have her,” as friends recalled Simar always saying.

“Wanda was a true inspiration to all the group members and she showed us how to live life to the fullest, even with this debilitating disease,” said Odette Hill, a local caregiver and a member of the support group. “She even wrote a book, ‘Wanda’s Words of Wisdom,’ in which she shared her struggles with candor, humor and grace.”

The group stopped meeting in during the COVID pandemic. With the passing of Simar, now group members feel it is a good way to honor her legacy by meeting again in person.

The first meeting back is planned at 11 a.m. Nov. 1 at the Train Depot in Orange.

Since November is National Family Caregivers Month, they will focus on healthy tips for caregivers.

All are welcome, especially those individuals with any movement disorder and/or their caregivers.

Refreshments will be served.

For more information, call Ella Guillory at 409-543-3084, Julie Patronella at 409-351-2048 or Odette Hill at 409-344-2005.

Simar, along with Ella Guillory, co-founded the group in 2005.

Guillory’s husband, Jay Guillory, had Parkinson’s Disease, also. Their son, Eligha Guillory Jr., started the Eljay Foundation for Parkinson Awareness, which is active in Southwest Louisiana, of which the Orange County Parkinson Support is an affiliate.

The goal of the local group is to give a person with Parkinson’s Disease and other movement disorders and their family/caregivers a place to gather for support, education and fellowship.

“We focus on the whole person — body, mind, and spirit —and we provide a safe, nurturing environment in which to share their concerns, struggles, and issues in battling the disease,” Hill said.
Organizers stress that taking care of the caregiver is just as important as taking care of the person with Parkinson’s Disease.

If the caregiver is struggling, that person’s loved one with the disease suffers.

“It takes a team to fight this disease and other movement disorders — the person with Parkinson’s, the family/caregivers, the doctors and other therapists,” Hill said.

“It’s just like flying on a plane, where they tell the parent to put on their own oxygen mask first and then their child’s mask. The caregiver must take care of themselves, first, before they can provide the care for their loved one.”

Being a full-time caregiver is stressful, at times, so the caregiver needs to have healthy outlets to deal with that stress. Members of the Orange County support group hope to be vital to the caregivers, as well as those with the disease.

If someone has Parkinson Disease’s, any other movement disorder or is a family member/caregiver, this support group is a valuable tool in the battle against the disease.

Attendees can meet others that are going through the same struggles, and the education and information gained is important.

The Orange County Parkinson Support Group meets on the first Wednesday of the month at 11 a.m.

The location will be announced for the December meeting at a later date.