Posted by Kristen Pufahl and Nancy Mazonson
The September Parkinson's Education, Networking, and Support group was a resounding success, measured in part by the group's spontaneous applause at its conclusion. Kristen Pufahl, Registered Dietitian for Nutrition Services, and Nancy Mazonson, Director of Parkinson's Family Support, "cooked up" a plan for discussing food-related challenges that can be difficult or embarrassing to discuss in a group setting.
Called "Parkinson's: Food for Thought" the facilitators used vignettes that reflect real-life food-related stories and challenges people with Parkinson's and care partners commonly face. The vignettes helped participants open up in front of peers and therefore normalize their experiences.
The stories addressed issues related to worsening symptoms such as changes in social life when it becomes more challenging to dine out and changes in responsibilities when it is longer possible to split household tasks such as cooking.
Feeling empowered, a rich conversation flowed as members of the group realized that THEY are the experts. Some solutions offered by participants were to eat something in advance of going out with friends so as not to be the slowest eater and use of home grocery delivery services.
At the end of the session, every person said they would try something new based on the program. One care partner reflected, "I saw myself and my husband in every single vignette. It made me feel more normal."
Kristen Pufahl is a licensed, registered dietitian working in the JF&CS Nutrition Services program. In addition to her work counseling clients, training staff, and running programs in the community, she chairs the Healthy JF&CS committee. She also teaches nutrition at Boston University.
Nancy Mazonson has coordinated JF&CS Parkinson's Family Support since its inception in September 2006. The program is a leading resource in the Boston area with its unique programs, including Parkinson's Dance, Adult Child and Care Partner support groups, and Tremble Clefs choral singing group. Prior to her work at JF&CS, Nancy worked extensively in inpatient and community-based rehabilitation settings, specializing in helping people with degenerative neurological conditions.