Don’t ignore a shake, speak up

April 05, 2018

In the lead up to World Parkinson’s Day, Geoff Alexander is calling on the community to be aware of the symptoms and speak up if they are worried.

For the past 26 years, Geoff Alexander has been grappling with the effects of Parkinson’s Disease.

The Shepparton man has been a strong advocate for the condition since his diagnosis, sharing his story in a bid to help others going through the same thing.

In the lead up to World Parkinson’s Day on April 11, Mr Alexander is calling on the community to be aware of the symptoms and speak up if they are worried.

‘‘Even if people think they have a shake they should talk to someone about it,’’ he said.

‘‘Talk to someone within our Shepparton District Parkinson’s Support Group or even go to the hospital and make an appointment.

‘‘Because once you start on the medication it really works, but you have to take them, on time every time, so that you are not up and down.’’

Mr Alexander’s diagnosis came some time after he began suffering a number of symptoms, which he and his wife Margaret were unaware that they related to Parkinson’s.

He was suffering from regular dandruff, skin flaking, lack of taste buds, poor movement and trouble with his eyesight, which Ms Alexander said didn’t add up to Parkinson’s Disease.

‘‘People think it is just people who shake but there are all these other symptoms that you don’t recognise and are not widely known,’’ she said.

‘‘We didn’t realise what was happening to Geoff ... it didn’t add up to us until much later when all of these things became apparent.’’

Over the years, Mr Alexander has dedicated a significant amount of time to researching the disease and the man behind the discovery.

James Parkinson published an essay on the Shaking Palsy in 1817, which established Parkinson’s as a recognised medical condition.

More than 200 years on, more than 80000 Australians have Parkinson’s Disease and 4000 people are diagnosed each year.

The condition produces three major symptoms, tremors, rigidity and abnormal movement. Mr Alexander says he has been lucky to experience only a few of these.

‘‘I am very lucky in the respect that I am not really physically disabled by it,’’ he said.

‘‘When I was diagnosed it was two months after a dear friend was diagnosed and within two years he was in a wheelchair and he could not control his movements.

‘‘I am very fortunate that I could hide the fact, but I choose not to because it means that I can do something to help fellow sufferers.’’

For the past 15 years Mr Alexander has run the Shepparton District Parkinson’s Support Group, which helped to establish a Parkinson’s nurse in Shepparton.

Throughout their time the group has also raised a large amount of money for the cause to help other sufferers.

With World Parkinson’s Day next Wednesday, Mr Alexander encouraged everyone who was worried to do their research, speak up about what is going in.

‘‘Parkinson’s Disease just makes difficult things a darn sight harder,’’ Mr Alexander said.

‘‘We have wonderful support here in Shepparton and we are keen to help people.’’

For more information head to the World Parkinson’s Day website.

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