New program for Parkinson's patients, others with physical challenges gets you exercising safely

parkinsons recovery classes
Posted at 9:53 PM, Mar 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-31 23:25:13-04

"When I was eating dinner using a utensil, I had a small little tremor in my hand," explained Jon Pawelkop, who was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 2016.

And despite being very athletic and exercising regularly, Jon quickly learned he had to up his game.

"Each one of us has different things we have to deal with. However, exercise is going to be the key to help you fight whatever you're doing or putting up with," he explained.

"The fact that this disease is a progressive neurologic condition and we have a modality that can delay how quickly you progress by how hard you work with your exercise, it's a no-brainer," explained Meredith DeFranco, who's a physical therapist.

DeFranco has been working with Jon and others after starting Parkinson Life Corporation or PdLife, where she tries to keep Parkinson's patients moving in a safe environment.

"We do all sorts of activities that are more catered to their needs in terms of higher amplitude movement training, balance exercises, interval training, but then the most important part is the socialization," she said.

DeFranco says this pandemic has been hard on everyone but especially those suffering from Parkinson's and other physical disabilities, as the isolation wreaks havoc on their physical and mental health.

So her classes are all outside and offered for different levels, getting everyone moving, regardless of their physical challenges.

"As a therapist that works in the field of neurology, I treat other conditions like ataxia, somebody that is post-stroke, and I think as sad as it is to say, we will be seeing people that are deconditioned because of the effects of covid," she said.

And as Jon continues to fight Parkinson's Disease, he's even taken a leadership role in DeFranco's group fitness classes.

But he admits, some days are challenging.

"I do have my bad days. I do have my moments, but a lot of people don't see that. And that's why I reach out and try to be with my friends because that's what fills me up and keeps me going," he said.

So if you or someone you know is fearful after being newly diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease, Jon has this advice.

"Get out and try to get some answers by seeking out help. Don't try to do it alone," he said.

If you're interested in more information about Parkinson's LIfe Corporation, go to their website