The licensed physical therapist recently began a Farragut location for PJ Parkinson’s Support Group, an effort she began in Maryville nearly four years ago.
Originally from Germany where she is a licensed physiotherapist, Senft-Daniel, who is the wellness director for Shannondale, also started PJ Parkinson’s Support Group at the West Knoxville branch of Shannondale along Middlebrook Pike before starting the one in Farragut, which meets in Renaissance 1 Farragut.
The topic is near and dear to Senft-Daniel, as she has “almost exclusively” worked with Parkinson’s patients, with the support group being named for Peg Johnson, one of Senft-Daniel’s very first patients in the United States.
“When I first came (here, Peg) suggested I start a support group, but then she died two weeks before our first meeting,” Senft-Daniel said.
Shortly thereafter, Senft-Daniel’s own father-in-law was diagnosed with the disease, which brought its impact even closer to home.
Those events made her even more determined to help those suffering from Parkinson’s, as well as their caregivers.
The disease typically presents symptoms that include slowness, stiffness, tremors and imbalance. But Senft-Daniel said other lesser-known symptoms might also indicate Parkinson’s.
“Some might include loss of smell, constipation, their writing gets smaller, and they are poor sleepers,” she said. “With those symptoms, no one thinks it might be Parkinson’s.
“This disease can be difficult,” she added. “Ten different people can have 10 different symptoms.”
Senft-Daniel said she has seen real shifts in the ages of those diagnosed with the disease.
“In the 25 years I have worked with Parkinson’s patients, most of the patients diagnosed were geriatric patients,” she said. “But now many under 50 are being diagnosed, and it is kind of alarming.”
There is as yet no cure, but Senft-Daniel said it is not fatal.
“A lot of people don’t know that you don’t die of Parkinson’s,” she said. “It is the only disease where, once you get over the shock, you can still be pretty active.
“:And, people can live 20 years or more with the disease, which is pretty unbelievable,” Senft-Daniel added. “But we want them to know they can live long, productive lives. You can just take the medications, but what saves you and gives you more years of life is being mobile.
Moreover, “We really encourage exercise and movement,” she said. “People have to move, and need physical therapy and a routine so they don’t get depressed or anxious.
“We want to get them out, socialize and keep moving.”
To that end, PJ Parkinson’s also offers group classes and activities to those they refer to as Parkinsonians, such as ballroom dancing, yoga, Tai Chi and painting lessons — all of which are free of charge.
The group hosted a volunteer orientation earlier this month, and it is also planning a March 8 symposium in Crowne Plaza in Downtown Knoxville for Parkinsonians, their caregivers and members of the medical community.
For more information, call 865-621-7666 or visit www.pjparkinsons.com