The number of Manitobans suffering from Parkinson's disease is expected to double in the next 16 years, says the Parkinson Society Manitoba.

The number of patients suffering from the degenerative neurological disease will hit 12,000 people in the province and 163,700 across the country by 2031. The disease is characterized by a loss of dopamine in the brain; there is no known cause or cure.

The Parkinson Society used information from a national neurological study and extrapolated the data using other information from Winnipeg's Movement Disorder Clinic. 

"Depression and anxiety are far more debilitating than motor symptoms themselves. Many people who experience Parkinson's are young," said Tanis Newsham, a social worker at the Movement Disorder Clinic.

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Parkinson's disease costs society over $120 million annually in medical bills and lost wages. The main cause of the disease's prevalence is an extended life expectancy. (CBC)

Parkinson's disease costs society more than $120 million annually in medical bills and lost wages, according to the national neurological study. The study says the main causes for the increase in Parkinson's patients is extended life expectancy and a better ability to diagnose the disease. 

"Doubling is an alarming statistic for Manitobans given that current demand for Parkinson's programs and health-care services is already being stretched.  A concerted effort to bring broader services to families living with Parkinson's disease will have to be ramped up at unprecedented levels over the next several years," said Howard Koks, Chief Executive Officer of Parkinson Society Manitoba.

'Sadness and loss of interest'

Steve Van Vlaenderen, 66, was diagnosed with the disease four and a half years ago.
 
"The purpose of my life disappeared in one single verdict and the words, 'there is no cure for Parkinson's disease.' The hardest thing was coping with the continuous feelings of sadness and loss of interest," Van Vlaenderen said. 

The Parkinson Society has begun testing the effectiveness of a pilot project to help manage depression in Parkinson's patients. 

"Well I think the secret is we have to bring awareness to it and we're starting that now with one pilot project in the area of anxiety and depression because there'll be a lot more people dealing with it," Koks said. 

"There are people that have Parkinson's now that just won't reach out to us. One of the things we really want them to know is they don't have to do this alone. Reach out to the society, get involved even if it's just at the level at education materials because the best thing they can do is equip themselves."

Changing your thoughts

Linda Demeule participated in the Parkinson Society Manitoba's pilot project that used cognitive behavioural therapy to change thoughts and behaviours of Parkinson's patients. 

Managing daily chores is a lot more difficult, the simple things aren't as simple, which causes a building frustration for Demeule, 

"But today I feel more confident and empowered. Tools that you have available to you to increase, enhance your daily life really, to change it," Demeule said. 

"There are different practical things like breathing exercises, muscle relaxation techniques that help deal with every day challenges," she added. "It's sort of looking at the glass half full instead of half empty. It changes your thoughts."


Winnipeg's Parkinson SuperWalk 2015 will take place Sept. 12 at the University of Manitoba. It will serve as a fundraiser to raise money for Parkinson's research. Similar fundraisers will be held in Morden, Brandon and Gimli. 

Find more information at the Parkinson Society of Manitoba website