Building a Better Health Service

Your Health

Parkinson’s group benefits participants and carers

 Finola Condon


Empowering carers, and including them in group sessions for clients with Parkinson’s disease, was one of the positive outcomes from a new service set up by the North Wicklow Speech and Language Therapy service in recent months.

Fiona Craven, Senior Speech and Language Therapist, explains: “We have quite a significant group of clients with Parkinson’s disease living within the catchment area of North Wicklow. We had been seeing them individually for sessions, supporting them and addressing their communications needs.

“We then looked to see what would be the best way to serve them into the future. They told us they wanted to meet other people who were also living with Parkinson’s disease.”

Fiona explains that on that basis, they decided to set up group sessions, bringing the clients together: “We decided to meet over six fortnightly sessions. We would start each session by welcoming the participants. From there, we moved into voice exercises. It was something that effectively grew and expanded week on week.”

The social aspect was really important for participants as Fiona observed: “We knew this was something they really wanted and so we always broke for tea and coffee. And that provided the opportunity for conversation to happen. It gave the participants the social dimension that they sought and it also provided a forum for education to support self-management.

“Then we would finish up with a talk from a member of the multidisciplinary team. We had a patient advocate come and talk about their lived experience which was great and then we had an occupational therapist attend and give a talk about fatigue. We also had a physiotherapist visit and speak about mobility. Most recently we had a dietician address the group about nutrition and hydration.”

Outlining how the group evolved over the course of the fortnightly sessions, Fiona says that “over that time we found it took on another inclusive dimension – that of support for carers. The carers who came with the clients were asking to come into the sessions and asking to stay. They wanted to meet other care partners, hear the talks and gain valuable information.”

Derek O’Brien, who has Parkinson’s disease and was a group participant, explains how he looked forward to attending every fortnight: “It was a way of touching base with fellow sufferers. It was really good to find people who knew how you felt.”

For Michael Condren, a group participant with Parkinson’s disease, the inclusion of the carers has been affirming: “When you are on your own, individual sessions are very good.  But I think the group session was really good.  It was a really lovely group of people – everybody was sort of in the same position and we were able to get on and see the funny side of things – we all have a sense of humour.”

For Finola Condren, Michael’s wife and carer, being able to attend has meant a lot: “As a group we became great friends – us carers in the back and the people with Parkinson’s up the front. I felt it was important that we stay for the whole session. I felt that was really essential and it has worked out really well.”

Fiona Craven says the inclusive approach has been very successful and they are now looking at running further sessions.  She thanked and acknowledged all involved in HSE Primary Care North Wicklow and expressed particular thanks to those working in Occupational Therapy, Physiotherapy and Dietetic services.

Watch the staff and participants in the Parkinson's group talk about their experiences -

Find further information on the Self Management Living Well Programme