Working with Partners
Kripalu collaborates with the National Parkinson Foundation
People with Parkinson’s disease are hungry for both information and empowerment. To address these needs, Kripalu’s Healthy Living faculty collaborated with the National Parkinson Foundation (NPF) to create the immersion program, A Wellness Retreat for People with Parkinson’s and Their Care Partners. Here, Joyce Oberdorf, NPF’s CEO and president, describes what the program provides for those dealing with a diagnosis, and for their loved ones.
Q How did this collaboration get started?
I had come to Kripalu a few times. After I became president and CEO of the National Parkinson Foundation, an individual in our chapter here in Florida mentioned to me that he had been to Kripalu, and it was his dream to have a program for people with Parkinson’s at Kripalu. It seemed like an absolute no-brainer. He came to the first one and loved it.
Q How is the program structured?
A great deal of emphasis is put on weaving together hard information on what Parkinson’s is and what it might be in the clinical-trial pipeline, to more experiential parts of the program, from sharing your story with your partners to the noon dance session. Whether someone was diagnosed in the last year or five, or a couple of weeks before the program, everyone has a tremendous desire to know more. There’s also a tremendous desire to share stories, process emotions, look for a way to cope with the diagnosis, and tap into that deep reservoir of resilience that allows us to overcome whatever we deal with in life.
I hear frequently that people say this program has changed their life. The next thing I hear is, “When will you have a follow-up program?” Our June program will be for people farther out after their diagnosis.
Q What do people take away from the program?
A tremendous sense of connection. They form friendships and stay in touch through online sharing groups long after the program ends. They also get a framework for an emotional and physical approach to the disease. We offer them a range of tools to explore, including an introduction to meditation; an introduction to yoga philosophy that helps them understand a little bit about where emotional suffering might come from; an understanding of the importance of movement and physical exercise; and an understanding of how their nutritional needs might be different from those of people without Parkinson’s.
Q How do you help caretakers?
For the caregiver, the emphasis is on emotional healing. There are separate sessions for them to share their stories. Often, they haven’t been able to talk about the very basic issues they’re going through, their fears, how their relationship with their loved one has changed. There’s an amount of grieving that goes along with that, looking into a future where they know that their relationship is never going to be the same. Experiencing, listening, and weaving together their stories is a tremendous experience.
Joyce A. Oberdorf has been President and Chief Executive Officer of the National Parkinson Foundation since March 2008. For the past four years, she has focused on transforming NPF into a technology-enabled, 21st century foundation focused on the mission of improving care through research, education, and outreach aimed at better treatments and better care now.