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Support for expatriate Parkinson’s sufferers

A NEW support group has been set up for English-speaking Parkinson’s disease sufferers in the Algarve. Lynne Allard has recently moved to the region and has created the first support network for expatriates diagnosed with the degenerative disorder. It is estimated that four to six million people suffer from the disease worldwide, however, it is unknown how many English-speaking residents are suffering from Parkinson’s in the Algarve. The Resident’s Ruth Sharpe met up with Lynne to find out more about this revolutionary group in the region.

Lynne began her work with Parkinson’s disease 20 years ago. She is currently the president of the Worthing and District branch of the UK Parkinson’s Disease Society, which will be celebrating its 30th anniversary next year. Lynne started working for the branch when her father was diagnosed with the disease. After initially helping with fundraising, she began researching Parkinson’s disease and took part in training courses, eventually becoming chairman of the branch, before her recent appointment as president.

One of her many successful activities for the society in the UK was to organise holidays to the Algarve for Parkinson’s sufferers, catering specifically for their needs. Lynne began doing these nine years ago in conjunction with SAGA travel agents. In 2004, she started working with José Luís Mota Vieira, the head of the Algarve branch of the Portuguese Association of Parkinson’s Disease (APDPK).

Lynne moved to the Algarve at the end of May this year, and created an English-speaking support group, which she integrates into the established Portuguese one. Lynne has no idea how many expatriates suffer from Parkinson’s in the Algarve, but it is her mission to find as many as possible and encourage them to participate in the group. The importance of support groups for patients is vital in providing them with information, advice and guidance.

Lynne acknowledges that a problem with many of those who are diagnosed with Parkinson’s is that they are “put off” by support groups as they do not want to acknowledge that they have the disease. She further describes how, sometimes, people come to a meeting once, see others who are suffering more than themselves and so are frightened by what could happen to them. This mindset overlooks the aim of support groups, which exist to provide interaction between sufferers in order to help them cope better with their condition.

It is not only the patients who need this support, but the carers who need guidance on how to deal with symptoms and know what to expect. The distinctly individual progression of Parkinson’s disease means that no case is the same, so sufferers and carers need to be aware of what they may encounter.

After taking a tour of Barlavento Hospital in Portimão last November, Lynne was very impressed by the facilities, describing them as superior to those in the UK. She highlighted the difference in terms of treatment for the disease in Portugal, mainly through the use of different drugs. “In the UK, the drugs prescribed to patients tend to control tremors, which can result in hallucinations. In Portugal, doctors do not use these drugs as they prefer to help patients deal with tremors rather than make them suffer the hallucinations,” Lynne said.

The Portuguese support group operates activities and days out, including swimming with a group in Lagos, overseen by trained staff, which Lynne hopes her group will become involved with. She is also continuing her work in the UK, organising holidays to the Algarve for sufferers of Parkinson’s disease.

Lynne welcomes people to get in touch with her if they require further information about Parkinson’s disease. For any who are suffering or affected by the disease and wish to join Lynne’s English-speaking group, which will be holding meetings throughout the Algarve, contact 282 086 987 or e-mail [email protected]