More than 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson's disease each year – all of them suddenly having to learn to live with a life-altering disease.
The community outreach program at the Muhammad Ali Parkinson's Center in Phoenix, Ariz., has been helping patients adjust to a new normal for over 15 years.
Margaret Ann Coles, program manager at the center, said many patients don’t realize how to take charge of their disease.
"We say, ‘Ok how many hours do you actually spend at the doctor?’ And usually for people, its four to six hours a year,” Coles said. “Then we say, ‘Well who do you think is in charge the rest of the time?’ For people that’s an ‘Ah ha!’ moment, and they go, ‘Oh you're right.’"
The center has exercise classes tailored to Parkinson’s patients, ranging from yoga and tai chi to dance. They also maintain several support groups, art and singing classes, and a golf clinic. The center even has volunteers that do private visits.
"What we wanted to do was figure out a way to get into people’s homes who weren't interacting with the system,” Coles said, “in order to help them live a better life with Parkinson’s."
The program is the only one in the country delivered in both English and Spanish, and it's offered free of charge thanks to generous donations.
An expansion project is in the works, ensuring that even more Parkinson’s patients will benefit from the Ali Center's programs.
"This is about wellness, not about illness, so consequently our outreach program is based on that,” Coles said. “Looking at how do we help people achieve the very best, how do they live their life every day? And so when someone comes to us and says, ‘I wish I could,’ we try to figure out a way to make it happen for people."
Click here for more information on the Muhammad Ali Parkinson’s Center.