Parkinson’s Awareness Month

by Joel Sylvester

My father was diagnosed at a very young age at 40 years old with Parkinson’s. He still had the same knowledge, had the same passion, all of the same skills, just, his body wasn’t able to function in quite the same way.

Hello, everybody. My name is Joel Sylvester. I am on the Employment Disability Resources Board and have been for several years. I am one of the owners at Five Star Call Centers and have worked with a variety of different people with a variety of different disabilities over the last 25 years.

 Parkinson’s is a disease where those afflicted – the dopamine receptors inside their brain have either been damaged or not working correctly, or the amount of dopamine that their body is creating isn’t working correctly.

 It generally results in tremors, lack of balance, stiff muscle movement, things like that. Some famous folks that have Parkinson’s are Michael J. Fox, Muhammad Ali, Ozzy Osbourne. Nobody really knows exactly what causes it. There are some environmental things. Exposure to chemicals, head trauma, things like that appear to be things that, that are causing it.

My father, he was an electrician and he actually ended up teaching for 20 years after that. Started with a cane and then used a walker and then a wheelchair and then a motorized wheelchair as his mobility kind of decreased. But he still had the same knowledge, had the same passion, all of the same skills, just, his body wasn’t able to function in quite the same way.

I’ve had multiple team members that I’ve worked with over the years, that were similar. A few things that we’ve found from an accommodation standpoint that really work well. Using a keyboard is great. Writing is sometimes difficult, but using a keyboard is great. Today, the ergonomic keyboards and the keyboards that have tremor regulation, both mouse and keyboards, are great. Very simple. Readily available. Very inexpensive.

The knowledge, the skillset, the passion for whatever career people did or whatever things people did in their life are still there. It’s just a lot of times their ability to do small motor movements because of tremors or potentially have a full mobility, and certainly balance and things like that are what are lost.

Employment Disability Resources is an amazing resource to be able to reach out to if you or somebody you know, or someone in your organization, is looking for ideas or ways to be able to overcome challenges from things like Parkinson’s.

Joel Sylvester is the chief client officer and partner at Five Star Call Centers, an outsource customer service and technical support organization based in Sioux Falls, SD. With over 25 years of crafting exceptional customer experiences, Joel has an unsurpassable passion for developing world-class customer experiences. His career spans hundreds of companies, working with brands like AARP, Wells Fargo, South Carolina Parks, Ohio Parks, and Fellowes, helping each enhance their customer experience. Joel has recruited, trained, and coached award-winning teams across the world in retail, banking, healthcare, and manufacturing. He is a graduate of the University of South Dakota, and during his career was named Wells Fargo Star Performer, and led teams named to the Inc. 5000 and Fellowes Partner of the Year as well as recipients of the South Dakota Governor’s Award. 

Joel is also active in the community, serving on the boards of the Washington Pavilion operations, Rotary Club of Downtown Sioux Falls, and Employment Disability Resources. He is also an active volunteer and board member with SculptureWalk Sioux Falls and the Sioux Empire United Way, having served as campaign chair as well as being part of several committees.

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