New centre hopes to improve lives of Parkinson’s patients and their families
Edmonton Journal -
Edmonton will be home to a state-of-the-art centre dedicated to improving the lives of people living with Parkinson’s disease thanks to a $5 million donation from a local family.
The Buchanon Centre, billed as the first facility of its kind in Canada, will bring together a host of resources for the thousands of Albertans dealing with the degenerative neurological disease.
Its benefactors, Diane and Gordon Buchanon, want the centre to be their family’s legacy to the province. After Gordon, the centre’s namesake, was diagnosed with the disease in 1999, the couple spent years trying to learn everything they could about the disease’s symptoms and challenges, having to travel across the country and to clinics in the U.S.
“So having dealt with this for as many years as we had, we realized there wasn’t any one real focal point where you could go and manage your way through this maze,” Diane Buchanon said Wednesday. Her husband, now 84, uses a wheelchair and has lost his voice because of the disease — something that happens to more than 80 per cent of people living with it.
They had to endure an “unbelievably” steep learning curve after the diagnosis, she said.
“There’s a real fear factor.”
The 9,000 square-foot space set to open in the summer of 2014 is designed to help alleviate some of the fears that accompany a Parkinson’s diagnosis. Parkinson Alberta will base its association in the office space on the building’s second floor while offering everything from counselling and massage therapy to kitchen classes and educational workshops on the main level.
All of the programs and supports are designed to help those living with the disease maximize their potential, bringing everything together under one roof at the corner of 86th Street and 112th Avenue. The space is also easily accessibly by transit, which was an important factor in choosing its location, Buchanon added.
Canadian actor Michael J. Fox, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s at age 30, has helped shed light on the disorder that is often accompanied by uncontrollable shaking and a decline of motor skills. Only about 20 per cent of those diagnosed are under 50, with the average age being 56.
About 8,000 Albertans have Parkinson’s. Buchanon suggested there are likely thousands more who haven’t been diagnosed. While medications that help cope with the symptoms can help, there is no cure in sight, Buchanon said.
“It makes your world very small, you can’t function the way you used to. Everything takes extra effort.”
When those with the disease are given the tools they need to continue to live a “large and loud” life, the challenges that come with the inevitable symptoms can be delayed, Buchanon said.
“One of the biggest things is mobility. If you can get to a physiotherapist early in the game and learn to exercise, you can stay mobile longer, which means you can remain in your home longer and you can have a much more active lifestyle,” she said.
Buchanon said the centre will also serve as a support system from the families of people with the disease, because family members often act as caregivers.
“It’s a very complicated disease and it affects everyone differently.”
With everything located under one roof, the facility will also likely take pressure off the health care system. Its blueprints and design will be provided to any other communities wanting to establish a similar centre.
The Buchanon Family Foundation will also set up an endowment fund to help fund the centre’s continued operations and maintenance.