Continuing Support for Patients with Parkinsons

By on July 17, 2019

Southern Shores resident Bill Downing celebrates positive results in his session with Nicole Kalkhoff, a speech language pathologist and certified LSVT LOUD® therapist. Downing, who experiences Parkinson’s symptoms, recently completed a 16-session course of therapy at The Outer Banks Hospital Rehabilitation Therapy Center.

Nearly one million people will be living with Parkinson’s disease (PD) in the U.S. by 2020, according to the Parkinson’s Foundation.

The disease, which affects both a person’s ability to communicate and move, is difficult to diagnose because it develops differently from person to person. That’s why working with a doctor to evaluate symptoms and create a personal treatment plan is the best first step toward managing the disease. That, combined with lifestyle choices around diet/nutrition and emotional well being, can help people stay independent and enhance their quality of life.

To give Outer Banks’ community members with PD the option of staying near home for rehabilitation therapies, The Outer Banks Hospital (TOBH) offers both LSVT BIG® and LSVT LOUD® evidence-based services. Each involve 16 sessions over a four week period and focus on exaggerated activity to compensate for movement and speech challenges. Participants are encouraged to move in big or in amplified ways as they learn the LSVT BIG exercise protocol for daily carry over to skills like dressing, writing, better balance and retrieving items.

For speech, the focus is on loud speaking. Activities may include sustaining sounds such as “ah,” in addition to oral reading and speaking activities. The goal over 16 sessions is to get patients to use their body and their voice more normally.

“It’s a really great experience,” notes Bill Downing, a Southern Shores resident who began to experience trembling symptoms in 2007. He recently completed 16 sessions over the course of four weeks with therapists certified in LSVT BIG and LSVT LOUD.“The people here are so professional. They know what they’re doing and are up on all the latest stuff. This place is a treasure.”

Downing, a former naval officer and retired Nags Head postmaster, was diagnosed with Parkinsons in 2012. While he has received deep brain stimulation to help with his symptoms, he is most enthusiastic about the services he’s received at TOBH. “I admit I wasn’t thrilled to drive down to Nags Head for therapy but I have a much different attitude now,” he said. “This team cheers you on! They’re so enthusiastic and they really care.”

Occupational Therapist Angie Goetsch, a certified LSVT BIG therapist, works with BIll Downing to help him amplify his movements and practice balance.

With three certified LSVT BIG and LSVT LOUD therapists in the Outpatient Rehabilitation Therapy Center, the treatment is customized and it’s administered one-to-one. LSVT BIG therapy can produce noticeable improvements even for those with significant physical difficulties.

LSVT LOUD therapy can do the same for those with communication challenges Often individuals have LSVT BIG and LSVT LOUD therapies back to back on the same day.

“Those who complete the program have noticeable improvements,“ says Nicole Kalkhoff, speech language pathologist at TOBH. “When they complete the therapy, they have the tools to continue working on their own.”

Because TOBH therapists know that this therapy is key to continued management of symptoms, they are making plans to offer a weekly support group for those who have completed the program. Titled BIG for LIFE®/ LOUD for LIFE®, former patients will gather for an exercise program along with the opportunity to mingle over refreshments.

“The time spent with others who are managing PD and its impact can be very beneficial,” said Lisa Minerich, a TOBH occupational therapist who is also LSVT BIG certified. “In addition to review of the exercises, we want this to be an opportunity for individuals, their family members and caregivers to connect and motivate each other.”

Downing is clearly ready and willing to participate in the group sessions. “The way I see it, my full-time job now is to exercise,” he says with a grin. “Like they say here, don’t worry about what you can’t do—focus on what you can do and keep it going. That’s what I’m doing.”


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