Archive for June, 2015

e-Parkinson Post is giving you more news, more often

Beginning with this issue, e-ParkinsonPost will be coming to your inbox on the third week of every month. Just like your Parkinson’s medication, getting helpful information on time is important. So, if you are looking for tips on living well, or you want to know the latest discoveries from the National Research Program, what we are doing to make an impact on health policies, and how we are engaging with our constituents, we will keep you connected to what’s happening in the Parkinson’s community in Canada.

There are other ways to stay connected between issues. We hope you will follow us on Twitter @ParkinsonCanada, and like our Facebook page at Parkinsonsocietycanada, or visit our website In addition, there are lots of helpful resources for health professionals at

We welcome your feedback and your submissions at

Advocacy in action: Good news for the Parkinson community in the 2015 federal budget

There was plenty of good news for the Parkinson community in the 2015 federal budget announced in late April, including support for seniors, caregivers and funding for investigations into aging and brain health, and palliative care. But with all the good news, there are still hurdles to address in the lead up to the federal election this fall and beyond.

The expansion of the country’s Compassionate Care EI benefits from six weeks to six months was a big win for us and our partner organizations, which collectively fought for this change. Parkinson Society Canada specifically made this request in our pre-budget submission to the Standing Committee on Finance. We also discussed the need for expanded compassionate care benefits in our meetings with 16 MPs, senators and policy makers during our visit to Ottawa on March 31st, to launch Parkinson Awareness Month last April.

While we know this is a great step forward for caregiver support, concerns still remain about how accessible this benefit is to members of the Parkinson’s community. Currently, many people with Parkinson’s have difficulty receiving an end-of-life prognosis from their physician, which is a requirement for their caregiver to be eligible for this benefit.

Parkinson Society Canada is looking for members of our community who are willing to share their experiences in attempting to access the Compassionate Care EI benefit. If you, or someone you know, would like to share your story to help us advance this advocacy priority, please contact us at

Other good news in the budget included the government’s decision to provide up to $42 million over five years, to help establish the Canadian Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation. This research investment may lead to better diagnostic tools and more effective treatments for Canadians affected by Parkinson’s or other neurological conditions. The government is also allocating an additional $14 million over two years for the Canadian Foundation for Healthcare Improvement to evaluate and disseminate data about best practices regarding palliative care services.

Parkinson Society Canada was also pleased to see budget policies aimed at boosting saving mechanisms for seniors, which can help with financial security. The minimum withdrawals for Registered Retirement Income Funds (RRIFs) will be reduced, permitting seniors to preserve more of their retirement savings. In addition, the annual contribution limits to Tax Free Savings Accounts (TFSAs) will increase from $5,500 to $10,000. This is great news for seniors as neither the income earned in a TFSA, nor withdrawals from it, affect eligibility for federal income-tested benefits and credits such as Old Age Security (OAS), the Canadian Pension Plan (CPP), Guaranteed Income Supplement benefits and the Goods and Services Tax Credit.

We also welcomed the Home Accessibility Tax Credit for seniors and people with disabilities to help offset some of the costs of ensuring their homes remain safe, secure and accessible. The credit is worth up to $1,500 for those spending up to $10,000 on things like wheelchair ramps, walk-in bathtubs and grab bars.

Looking ahead to the 2015 federal election

As we move closer to the 2015 federal election scheduled for October, Parkinson Society Canada (PSC) will continue to present our policy priorities to current MPs and public servants as well as candidates from all parties. And we can use your help.

Elected officials and candidates must pay attention to the opinions of the voters in their riding, especially at election time. You can help move Parkinson’s issues forward during the 2015 election campaign and beyond by becoming a Parkinson’s Ambassador in your riding. Whether you are a person living with Parkinson’s, a caregiver to someone living with the disease, or simply want to help with the cause, you can be a champion in your community by being the voice for Canadians with Parkinson’s!

As a representative of the Parkinson’s community, you will meet with your local MP and candidates to discuss issues impacting the Parkinson’s community, in advance of the 2015 federal election. We will provide you with the training and support you need to ensure that you are fully prepared for the election campaign. If you’d like more information, please contact us at

It takes more than two to tango to study the benefits for people with Parkinson’s

It’s no surprise that when Dr. Silvia Rios Romenets released the results of her recent study on tango dancing as a therapy for Parkinson’s disease, the media eagerly picked up the story. After all, the Argentine tango has an emotional connotation with its sensual Latin rhythms and depictions on TV and in film.

More important than the feelings it inspires, the Argentine tango involves complex steps and requires “cognitive and multi-tasking skills to gradually integrate previously learned steps, as well as forward and backward movements and stopping and starting,” explains Rios Romenets, a behavioural neurologist and specialist in movement disorders conducting research at the Movement Disorders Clinic at The Neuro and Montreal General Hospital. “It has been used in previous studies to assess the ability of dance to improve motor symptoms in people with Parkinson’s.”

Dr. Rios Romenets’ study involved about 40 men and women, divided into two groups, and assessed both motor and non-motor symptoms. The control group followed their current exercise regime or if they were not already active, they were asked to follow Parkinson Society Canada’s recommended Exercises for people with Parkinson’s, at home, on their own. The other group participated in 24, one-hour, Argentine tango classes with their own partners (spouse, family member, friend or volunteer) and two instructors in a dance studio over 12 weeks. Participants in both groups underwent a series of motor and non-motor symptom assessments and completed questionnaires to determine the results.

“Although the core motor features of Parkinson’s disease such as tremor, slowness and rigidity were unchanged, we found an improvement in balance and possible modest improvements in cognition and fatigue in the tango-dancing group,” reports Dr. Rios Romenets. “Participants also found the tango classes highly enjoyable. Part of that pleasure may come from this positive bonding experience for couples who are more often dealing with the negative consequences of the disease.”

Overall, this study adds to the body of knowledge that indicates that regular exercise has both motor and non-motor benefits for people with Parkinson’s. “Adding music to the exercise mix, also appears to have additional benefits,” Rios Romenets. “In which case, learning the Argentine tango and regularly dancing can be a good option for physical activity for those with Parkinson’s.”

As a behavioural neurologist and specialist in movement disorders, Rios Romenets is drawn to research to ameliorate the suffering of people dealing with this complex disease, as well as help their families. “Working with patients with Parkinson’s can be frustratingly difficult, because you cannot offer a cure. On the other hand, helping these people and their families makes me more determined to continue my research into this difficult disease.”

In the 2011-2013 funding cycle, Dr. Rios Romenets was awarded a two-year, $100,000 clinical fellowship from Parkinson Society Canada’s National Research Program.  She participated in five research projects, including the 2012 publication of the Physician Guide Non-motor Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease, which has a companion piece for patients, A Guide to the Non-motor Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease.  Dr. Rios Romenets felt very fortunate to be a PSC fellowship recipient and her recent tango study was also funded in part by PSC’s National Research Program and the Fonds de recherché santé Québec.

When she began to practice as a neurologist in Colombia, Rios Romenets worked towards combining her clinical practice with research. Describing herself as half-Russian, half-Peruvian, she learned English to improve her chances of pursuing research in her field. It’s no surprise that Rios Romenets also enjoys tango dancing in her free time and has participated in dance-related fundraising events.

In the future, Rios Romenets would be interested in doing a larger study of Argentine tango as a complementary  therapy for Parkinson’s, over a longer time frame of six to 12 months. “I’d also be interested in focusing on the cognitive and other non-motor benefits of dancing,” she says. “And perhaps add neuro-imaging to the study.”

To learn more about Parkinson Society Canada’s National Research Program and to support more projects like this with a donation, go to our donation page or contact

Everyone’s a winner with Parkinson SuperWalk

Brent Graham

Brent Graham

Our first three winners

Parkinson SuperWalk 2015 has awarded prizes to three contest winners, and you’ll have several more chances to win before the walk weekend September 12 and 13.  Congratulations to Brent Graham of Scarborough, Ontario, who won the Early Bird Draw and a $500 gift card from Roots. Graham participated in his first Parkinson SuperWalk last year in honour of his mother Elva Graham. She passed away a month later at the age of 73 after living with Parkinson’s disease for five years. “I have made a pledge to Mom and myself that I will complete the Parkinson SuperWalk each year in her honour,” says Graham.

Our “Good Egg” Katie Stammler of Windsor, Ontario, received a golden prize pack (worth approx. $200) courtesy of our national sponsor Burnbrae Farms after a contest on our Facebook pages. Stammler wrote: “My mom is a golden egg for being a fabulous caregiver to my dad. Another golden egg goes to him for his amazing positive attitude and perseverance.” Burnbrae Farms awarded the same prize package to Valerie Caldicott of British Columbia, from its online community.  Caldicott tries to do a random act of kindness each day. In addition to prizes, Burnbrae Farms is donating $2 for every like or comment received during the contest, up to a maximum of $5,000.

Burnbrae Farms has also created “Shelli Parker” a returning virtual walker, to walk on behalf of all the eggs and people who can’t participate, but still want to support Parkinson SuperWalk!  Watch for Shelli’s picture on cartons of Naturegg Omega 3 Brown and Naturegg Nature’s Best cartons this summer.

Winning fashions

If the prize of a gift card from Roots really gets you excited, you’ll want to check out our Parkinson SuperWalk 25th Anniversary Collection of premium items for sale, all made by Roots. This high-quality collection consists of a limited quantity of hoodies, scarves and toques, so order now and you won’t be disappointed. You can have your order delivered to your home or pick it up in September at your Parkinson SuperWalk location.

New for 2015: Super Friendraiser Draw

Register online for Parkinson SuperWalk and send out emails to your contacts through the Participant Centre! And send them out soon, before friends, colleagues and family members start heading off for summer holidays. For every 25 email addresses that you send an email message to through the Participant Centre, you will receive one ballot for a chance to win a Sharp TV. Contest closes June 30th. You’ll also receive badges for sending emails. Check out the variety of badges you can earn. For more information on this contest, visit our Prizes and incentives page.

More to come

Stay tuned this summer for announcements of exciting contests on the Parkinson SuperWalk Facebook page, like our Everyday Hero contest and the Pets for Parkinson’s contest.  And don’t forget to use the Share feature to tell your friends about the contests too! After all, we all win with Parkinson SuperWalk, a fun family event raising funds to help those with Parkinson’s live their best possible life and to continue the quest for a cure for this complex disease.

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All material related to Parkinson's disease contained in Parkinson Post is solely for the information of the reader. It should not be used for treatment purposes. Specific articles reflect the opinion of the writer and are not necessarily the opinion of PSC.

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