Parkinson’s is a progressive nervous system disorder that is usually diagnosed by a neurologist. About 60,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with the disease each year, and the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation estimates that nearly 1 million people will be living with it by 2020.
Parkinson’s symptoms typically start slowly after age 50 and develop over time. They vary by individual and in intensity. Symptoms may include a tremor or shaking, stiffness or slowness, quiet or slurred speech, problems with balance and posture, difficulty performing tasks such as writing, and difficulty being expressive.
According to the National Institutes of Health, nearly 90 percent of Parkinson’s patients experience a speech and voice disorder. They may be unable to raise the volume of their voices and form clear and precise sounds. Their speech often sounds raspy, breathy or strained and lacks variation in pitch. Communication issues can affect the comfort level of patients in social situations, resulting in isolation and reducing their quality of life.
Specialized therapy for patients with Parkinson’s disease
Lee Silverman voice treatment, often referred to as LSVT, is an evidence-based therapy program supported by the National Institutes of Health. LSVT Loud is a standardized, research-based treatment that helps individuals improve their speech and volume.
Parkinson’s disease also impacts physical abilities, resulting in smaller, slower and uncertain movements. Any task from buttoning clothing to walking and preparing food can be affected.
LSVT Big is a specialized program that trains people with Parkinson’s disease to use their bodies more effectively and helps them make bigger motions. The therapy includes exercises to help improve posture, balance, sitting, standing and walking, and functional activities of importance to each patient. Activities often include writing, dressing, handling of small objects such as pills or tools, and walking.
The Loud and Big programs are two distinct, multiple-visit therapy programs that complement each other. The programs are covered by most insurance plans with a referral from a physician, and are designed to be enjoyable and enlightening.
Upon completion of the LSVT therapy programs, people with Parkinson’s can participate in two eight-session group programs – Big for Life and Loud for Life – to practice and maintain the skills they learned in therapy.
Patients benefit from sharing experiences with others
Jerry Sura, 66, of Waukesha, said the skills he learned in the Big and Loud therapy programs and while participating in the Life groups have helped him manage his Parkinson’s.
“The program emphasizes back to full life, back to bigness,” Sura said. “When I talk with someone now I talk ‘big,’ which is not something that comes naturally.”
Sura said he overcame any hesitancy to take the Life class once he experienced the camaraderie that developed in the group sessions.
“We became friends in battle,” he said. “We had very strong interests in the same thing, which became very strong motivation.”
Patrick Pride, 67, of Waukesha, said he has benefitted greatly from the Lee Silverman therapy programs.
“When I started I had considerably less than one octave range in my speech,” he said. “With the therapists’ help I got it up to over two octaves. Quite a few people noticed the improvement.”
“I’m an engineer – I fix a lot of things and can pretty much make anything work,” Pride said. “The therapists at ProHealth know how to maintain and even improve some of the muscles affected. We were able to come up with better, smarter, faster, easier ways to get out of bed and safe ways of dressing, getting up and down stairs without falling, and getting in and out of a vehicle.”
ProHealth Care offers local resources
ProHealth Care’s Rehabilitation Services team has therapists trained and certified to provide LSVT Big and LSVT Loud programs for Parkinson's at ProHealth Waukesha Memorial Hospital, the ProHealth Medical Group clinic in Oconomowoc and in the rehabilitation services clinic located within Shorehaven Health & Rehabilitation Center in Oconomowoc.
The next Big for Life Parkinson's group exercise class is scheduled for April 3 to May 22 at ProHealth Waukesha Memorial Hospital. It is open to 12 LSVT Big graduates. The next Loud for Life group class is scheduled for May 29 to July 17. It is open to 12 LSVT Loud graduates.
A $75 fee covers eight weeks of classes, comprehensive take-home materials and instruction.
More information about the programs for Parkinson’s patients or the group classes for program graduates is available by calling 262-928-4636.
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For more than a century, ProHealth Care has been the health care leader in Waukesha County and surrounding areas, providing outstanding care across a full spectrum of services. The people of ProHealth Care strive to continuously improve the health and well-being of the community by combining skill, compassion and innovation. The ProHealth family includes ProHealth Waukesha Memorial Hospital, ProHealth Oconomowoc Memorial Hospital, ProHealth Rehabilitation Hospital of Wisconsin, ProHealth Medical Group, the UW Cancer Center at ProHealth Care, Moreland Surgery Center, ProHealth AngelsGrace Hospice, ProHealth Home Care, ProHealth West Wood Health & Fitness Center and ProHealth Regency Senior Communities. Learn more at ProHealthCare.org.