Parkinson’s patients can improve movements, speech at WCGH
Physical Therapist Amanda Curtis has joined Speech Language Pathologist Erica James in looking to improve the quality of life for people with Parkinson’s disease — the second most prevalent neurological disease nationwide, behind Alzheimer’s.
Erica was certified in 2006 to work with Parkinson’s patients on their speech.
And this June, Amanda became certified to work with Parkinson’s patients on improving their motor skills.
Helping someone fight the ravages of Parkinson’s disease is personal for Amanda. She’s been working with her father, Randy, on exercises to combat the stiffness often associated with the disease for the past eight years.
But now, she will share what she learned from LSVT BIG with patients at the PT/OT department at Waldo County General Hospital. LSVT BIG is a program for improving motor skills for individuals with Parkinson’s disease and some other neurological conditions. The method was developed following more than 20 years of research funded by the National Institutes of Health.
LSVT BIG, which Amanda also recently started with her father, involves 16 individual sessions, four consecutive days a week for four weeks. Participants are also asked to do daily homework and to continue with the exercises after the sessions end.
LSVT BIG involves a set of exercises that help the patient move “big.” They involve stretching, twisting, and big steps, which help the patient with speed of movement, balance, and ultimately his or her quality of life.
Amanda has two slogans for her patients in the LSVT BIG program: “Use it and improve it” and “Think Big.”
“It’s a mindset we’re trying to change…The world tends to get small for people with Parkinson’s and we’re trying to open it up again,” she explains. “We want them to take big steps through a doorway.”
While Randy Curtis is just starting the LSVT BIG program, he has been following an exercise regime put together by his daughter when he was diagnosed eight years ago. He said doctors at the Lahey Clinic are convinced that exercise is what has kept him moving without the telltale signs of Parkinson’s Disease — a slow gait, rigidity of the upper body and decreased balance.
Randy also takes medication, which has stopped the tremors. He swims and bikes almost daily to combat the stiffness he wakes to each morning.
Amanda learned during her certification training that the best results come with patients who are highly motivated and take the program soon after being diagnosed, although she is quick to add that there are gains to be made whenever a person with Parkinson’s takes the program.
For more than six years, Erica has been working with patients through LSVT LOUD to improve their speech. Parkinson’s can result in reduced volume, understandability and facial expressions and often the person talks in a monotone.
Much like LSVT BIG, LSVT LOUD is an intensive 4-week therapy, which is scientifically designed for individuals with Parkinson’s disease. Like its exercise counterpart, it also depends on patients doing homework and keeping up the exercises after finishing the training.
LSVT LOUD is a bit easier for patients who live a distance from Belfast since the program can be done in person once a week and over the computer with a webcam. Charlie Bradford of Southwest Harbor, who took the training, says at first he was a bit intimidated by the computer sessions but quickly forgot he was even on it. “I could hear Erica well,” says Charlie. “It was very pleasant. I was comfortable and more relaxed at home and I could talk louder without bothering anyone. After one session, I forgot it was telemedicine. I was just talking to Erica.”
“I can’t wait to start working with more patients with Parkinson’s disease,” says Amanda. “I’m very excited about it. I think there is a big need in our community. These are life-long exercises that people can do every day in order to keep moving and I know it works.”
Amanda and Erica are also hoping to get a Parkinson’s disease support group going.
If you have Parkinson’s disease or have had a stroke or have multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, or Downs syndrome, talk to your doctor about whether LSVT BIG and LOUD might help you.