“Over 50 percent of people living with Parkinson’s Disease may experience hallucinations or delusions during the course of their disease.”

This shocking opening statement by guest speaker Dr. Jose Gamez brought the members of the Newnan Parkinson’s Support Group attending the monthly meeting to full attention.

Gamez, from the Department of Psychiatry, Palmetto General Hospital in Hialeah, Florida, noted that many people are familiar with the motor symptoms that people with PD can experience, such as resting tremors, slowness of movement, rigid muscles and trouble with balance.

“What may be unexpected are the many nonmotor symptoms of PD, including hallucinations and delusions,” Gamez said. “These symptoms, when experienced as part of PD, are known as

Parkinson’s disease psychosis.”

The presentation by Gamez was sponsored by the pharmaceutical company Acadia, producers of the drug NUPLAZID®, which is used to treat symptoms associated with PD psychosis.

Gamez continued by providing definitions, describing hallucinations as “seeing, hearing, sensing or experiencing things that others do not, and delusions defined as believing things that are not true.”

Examples include seeing things, such as people, animals or objects, or hearing sounds, such as music or voices, that others do not. The symptoms also include paranoia, such as believing someone is trying to access your bank account or steal objects from your house.

Professional counseling and emotional support by care partners and family play an important role in treatment of PD psychosis, according to Gamez.

After concluding with a review of NUPLAZID®’s characteristics and side effects, Gamez opened the meeting to questions and discussion. Two representatives of Acadia were in attendance and provided product brochures to the attendees while helping answer questions.

The group seemed to respond positively to the presentations in terms of relevance and application. Marie Umbach provided a representative comment:

“I was not aware of the medication,” said Marie Umbach, who attended the meeting. “I now feel more equipped to discuss the symptoms of Parkinson’s-related psychosis with my doctor”

After a break, Barbara Nelan, co-chair for the group, led a discussion on the plans for a special celebration during the next meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, April 11.

“On that day we will celebrate World Parkinson Awareness Day,” Nelan said. “April 11 is the birthday of James Parkinson, who, in 1817, medically described PD as ‘shaking palsy.’”

Nelan emphasized a time change for this meeting only, noting the meeting will start at 1:15 p.m. and will conclude by 3 p.m. She said the group will celebrate with cake and refreshments, a proclamation by Newnan Mayor Keith Brady and a special presentation by Dr. Paulett Lewis, founder of Neu-Level Physical Therapy and Wellness in Tyrone.

All members of the support group, including spouses and care partners, should attend, Nelan said, and any member of the Newnan community that is interested in learning more about Parkinson’s is welcome to attend.

The Newnan Parkinson’s Support Group meets the second Tuesday of each month at the First United Methodist Church of Newnan at 2:30 p.m. A typical agenda includes time for fellowship and mutual support, plus a guest speaker with expertise in one or more dimensions of Parkinson’s.

For more information visit www.newnanpd.org.

The support group is also affiliated with the PD Advocate program. The program targets individuals newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s. The diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease can be a scary time for individuals and their care partners. PD is a complex disease impacting each person in a different way and there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to managing the disease. It’s a time of confusion and many questions, medical experts say.

The program provides trained advocates – volunteers who have experienced the effects of the disease – to come along side and assist in a number of ways, such as pointing to useful information and resources, as well as providing encouragement and emotional support.

Individuals recently diagnosed with Parkinson’s or their care partners can connect with the PD

Advocate Program by emailing their contact information to pdadvocatenewnan@gmail.com.