Headway- Victoria Epilepsy & Parkinson’s Centre is dedicated to enhancing the quality of lives of people with epilepsy or Parkinson’s. We have been offering a Parkinson’s Group that has functioned primarily with an education focus. The group’s format was lecture style with a presenter and audience, then tea and cookies afterward. We have been transitioning the group to function more as an opportunity for peer support, and integration of coping tools and strategies. This has required a gentle shift of expectations, a change from lecture seating to circle of chairs, and activation fo the participants.
I contracted Nejama Ferstman to come to the group for the activation. Many people with Parkinson’s experience a softening of the voice, bradykinesia(slow to initiate movement), and facial mask(blank expression), all of which impair social connection. Nejama brought a large number of percussive instruments for individuals to handle and use to create sound. She also brought ideas of songs to sing, and a few selected recorded songs to play on a CD player. Nejama was warm and disarming, immediately generating an environment of active engagement and fun. I saw one man who is usually very masked, cringing with delight and playing air guitar to the sound of a solo introduction of Wake Up Little Susie. One other participant wrote me an email: ” The last meeting with Nejama… was a success in my book. When you, Nejama and I started having fun dancing in our seats, the group mood and participation picked up considerably.”
We all were very happy with the way Nejama came into the group and brought smiles, song, and motion out of everyone.