An innovative course in Waterford is transforming the lives of people with Parkinson’s and other neurological conditions.

Group pictured with Smovey rings at the final session of the most recent ‘Helping People with Parkinson’s’ course which took place at the Butler Community Centre, St John’s Park.

Group pictured with Smovey rings at the final session of the most recent ‘Helping People with Parkinson’s’ course which took place at the Butler Community Centre, St John’s Park.

An innovative course designed to help people living with Parkinson’s and other neurological conditions is generating huge benefits for local participants.
Parkinson’s disease is a progressive neurological disorder which is caused by a loss of a chemical called dopamine.Everyone loses some of this chemical as they get older, however, it is only when people have lost about 80 per cent of their dopamine that they start to have symptoms.Although living with Parkinson’s and other neurological conditions can be very challenging, many people continue to lead active, fulfilling lives and simple measures can contribute to improving their lifestyles. Parkinson’s is classified as a Movement Disorder, as it primarily affects movement, and is variable in its progression.
Fortunately, there are many activities which can be undertaken which can significantly help people who are living with Parkinson’s.
In fact, there are many steps which can be taken to help slow the progression of the disease and even reverse the symptoms. Irene Treacy is Director of Smovey Health and Course Creator of the education and exercise programme ‘Helping People with Parkinson’s’. A five-week ‘Helping People with Parkinson’s’ course recently concluded in Waterford at the Butler Community Centre, St John’s Park. Irene is Ireland’s first Smovey Coach. She is also a PD Warrior and is Parkinson’s Regeneration Trained. Additionally, Irene is a certified practitioner in Neuro Linguistic Programming and a certified Yoga Instructor specialising in people with brain injuries.
For more than three years, she has been having remarkable results in her work with people with Parkinson’s who are aiming to improve their lifestyles.Smovey exercises provide a dynamic upper body workout that gets you fit while helping to burn calories and stabilise your back and spine.It has many benefits for people living with Parkinson’s as well as those with mobility issues.Each Smovey ring weighs one pound and includes four metal balls which run freely inside the hollow plastic tubes.
All of the exercises are built around the use of the rings and focus on flexibility, balance, co-ordination and strength training. Engaging in Smovey exercises has brought about significant improvements in quality of life for people living with Parkinson’s and other neurological conditions as Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Stroke and brain injuries.Irene has had to travel to the UK for all the Parkinson’s courses she has participated in. Now, she wants to help and support other health professionals in Ireland with the knowledge which she has gained. There are only five dedicated Parkinson’s Diseases Nurses in the Republic of Ireland compared to 31 in Northern Ireland. To help share knowledge, Irene offers five free places on the ‘Helping People with Parkinson’s’ course to nurses so that further information can be spread.
Throughout the recent five-week programme, participants have heard from skilled and professional tutors each week, including Michael Connolly, Master Neuro Linguistic Practitioner and Clinical Psychotherapist; Dr. Ryan Foley, Physiotherapist specialising in Movement Disorders; Jemma Kehoe Clinical Nutritional Therapist; and Lisa Shine, Speech and Language Therapist who has worked in the Neurology Department of Wexford Hospital and now has her private practice here in Waterford.
All of the speakers have years of experience working directly with people with neurological conditions and all participants in the course have benefitted enormously from these sessions. “I started this course nearly two years ago as it was obvious from working with my clients with Parkinson’s that they had very little knowledge of what they could do to improve their quality of life,” says Irene. “Most just accepted that they had this neurological degenerative disease and believed there was nothing other than medication to help them.”
Michael Power (holding Smovey rings) pictured with his daughter Caroline.

Michael Power (holding Smovey rings) pictured with his daughter Caroline.


Irene says a positive mindset is hugely important when dealing with a condition such as Parkinson’s. “I have found that people’s mindset needs most attention and that’s why I trained in Neuro Linguistic Programming and my teacher and mentor Michael Connolly is one of the best in the country,” she explained.Irene was particularly concerned by the lack of awareness surrounding different aspects of the condition, such as the importance of diet. “There is so much that we can do to help slow the progression of the disease and even to reverse the symptoms,” she says.“John, one of our clients with MS uses a cane to walk and, on week four, walked in without his walking stick as his balance improved and he felt more confident to walk without his cane. These personal and physical improvements don’t just impact on the person with the condition, but they also create an overall knock on positive effect for the entire family.” Michael Power participated in Irene’s first course and has taken part in each subsequent course. He has experienced huge benefits but admits that his Parkinson’s diagnosis hit both him and his family very hard initially. “It’s great to meet other people and exchange views,” he says.“The people we meet on the course are all of the same mindset. We all want to make the best of our situation and will all work towards a positive future. Great friendships are made on each and every course.” His daughter Caroline was in attendance with Michael at the final session of the five-week programme and pointed out that she has noticed a significant transformation since he began to take action to deal with his diagnosis.
Caroline says her father has now gained “control” over his Parkinson’s and is enjoying an active lifestyle – a stark contrast from the dark days of his initial diagnosis.
“He was very down about it and didn’t even say the word ‘Parkinson’s’ for a long time,” she explained. “When we were told, we were all upset but we couldn’t tell him everything would be ok as we just didn’t know.” Gradually, as a family, they came to terms with the diagnosis as they began to learn more about Parkinson’s.
Eileen Nolan, who has MS, has also experienced huge benefits.
“I have never been on a course where such positivity and hope is promoted and encouraged,” she said.“The physical exercises and the mindset training are paramount to my recovery and I have absolutely improved my condition since I started attending. I have made a great group of friends and I also pass on my new knowledge to my other MS colleagues who can’t attend the course.”Eileen points out that the classes are important both physically and socially. “I didn’t know anyone here but we identify with each other and help each other,” she explained. Irene was encouraged to attend the course by her husband Paul and says she would highly Smovey exercises. “I knew very little about Smovey when I first got involved. The difference since I started over two years ago is astounding,” she said. “I’ve been to so many different places and tried so many different things. That’s what you do – you grasp at straws and hope that something might make you feel better.”Eileen says she now has improved energy levels and enjoys greater freedom as she doesn’t feel as constrained by her condition. Brid Power explained that she was encouraged by her daughter to attend. “Physically and mentally, it has made such a difference,” she says. “I didn’t want to admit to myself that I had Parkinson’s. I now talk about it much more since coming on the course.” Veronica O’Dwyer is a nurse who travelled from Tipperary every week to attend the course.“When I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s last year my whole world fell apart,” she said.“I could not accept the condition and just focused on the progression of the disease and not what I could do to help myself. As a nurse in a nursing home, I work with people with Parkinosn’s and I could only see their existence as my future. Thankfully, Irene and her amazing team showed me so many techniques, including Smovey that really changed my attitude and I started to focus on improving my own mindset and the rest fell into place.”
Veronica believes the knowledge gained from the course will help in both her personal and professional life.“I learned so much from the course that will not just help me live a better life with Parkinson’s but also my patients in the nursing home too,” she said.
“Irene has a wealth of valuable information and her genuine care and passion to help people shines though. I have benefitted so much from Smovey exercises that I have actually trained to become a smoveyMED practitioner myself.”
Therese Boyle, a nurse from Youghal, also attended the course to gain more knowledge.
She was impressed with the level of positivity displayed by the course participants and believes similar courses would work very well if replicated elsewhere in the country.
Therese mainly works with adults with disabilities but was interested in learning more about Parkinson’s as her brother was diagnosed with the condition at just 44.
“Unless you or a loved one has it, you don’t really understand the complexities of the condition,” she says. “I have learned so much and gained so much practical knowledge that will be able to help my brother and others that I meet along the way. I had been looking for a course to learn about Parkinson’s but unfortunately there is nothing like this in Ireland, so I was thrilled when I became aware of this course and I’m really grateful that Irene has offered this course free to nurses. Irene has a super knowledge about Parkinson’s and a genuine care for her clients and it was a pleasure to join in this course and see the improvements in the people with Parkinson’s and MS a weekly basis. I know my brother and everybody on the course is extremely grateful for all Irene does to help people with Parkinson’s and other neurological conditions.” Hope and positivity were most definitely the dominant themes in the conversations being held during the final session of this impressive course and, with so much commitment and determination rom Irene and the team, many more people look set to benefit.
The next five-week ‘Helping People with Parkinson’s’ programme for people with Neurological Conditions is a Smovey and Chair Yoga Class which will incorporate breathing, stretching, meditation and mindset.
This class will be suitable for anybody with Parkinson’s, MS, Ataxia, Stroke or any brain Injuries and commences on Wednesday 24th July from 10am to 11.30am and will run for five weeks in the Butler Community Centre
For more information, email or call Irene on 085 8525766.