The Blacktown Support Group in Sydney was formed just over a year ago, in August 2021.
“It wasn’t ideal timing because of the COVID restrictions during that time, but we persevered and made it work through a combination of face-to-face meetings when possible and an informative Facebook page,” said Claire Rich. She is joint leader of the Group with her husband Ian who is living with Parkinson’s.
Blacktown Support Group meets once a month at the Blacktown RSL which generously provides a meeting room free of charge for the gatherings.
“We have about 10 regular meeting attendees,” said Claire. “At this point, we are a very much evidence- and information-based Group because most of our participants are within the first five years of their Parkinson’s journeys – so they are in search of answers to the many questions which arise as their condition progresses.”
Caregivers are also very much part of the Group. They join regular Group meetings and also occasionally take time out for themselves – exercising and socialising together.
“Being a relatively new Support Group, we are still building our profile in the local community. However we are taking every opportunity to reach out and are currently engaging with a representative of the City Council, which is promising.
“We are also very grateful for the support of Mobi Healthcare – a polyclinic which offers physiotherapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy. Most of our participants access the services of Mobi and they are great for us,” said Claire.
Claire says the greatest challenge facing the Blacktown Support Group is boosting active participation in its meetings.
“We have a lot of people who want to listen and learn,” she said. “Now we are encouraging everyone to take the next step by participating and sharing their own experiences during our meetings.”