PEF therapists help curb the progression of Parkinson’s disease
PD TEAM AT HELEN HAYES HOSPITAL – Back row: Susan Lee, Sandy Fini, Lisa Modell, Melissa Mahony. Seated: Elizabeth Russo, Bozena Szostak and Kaitlyn Cashman. Russo, a senior occupational therapist, and Fini a senior physical therapist, work with patients to help improve their quality of life. — Photos by George Mattei
By DEBORAH A. MILES
People suffering from Parkinson’s disease (PD) experience many symptoms that impair their daily lives. It’s as if their world turns from a fast or normal pace to slow motion. They experience rigidity or stiffness in their limbs and tremors in their face, arms, hands and legs. Falling three or four times a week becomes a routine. Pain is an unwelcomed companion and a good night’s sleep becomes a thing of the past.
PD is a progressive disorder, but PEF members at Helen Hayes Hospital in West Haverstraw have developed programs designed to help PD patients enjoy a better quality of life, and even slow the progression of the disease.
“We saw a need to do a more cohesive evaluation of individuals with PD,” said Sandy Fini, a senior physical therapist. “We wanted to look at the patient as a whole, so we established a joint evaluation where the individual is evaluated by a physical therapist and an occupational therapist.”
An evaluation takes approximately two hours, and then the therapists decide which plan is best for the individual. At this state hospital’s Outpatient Neurological Rehabilitation Center, the therapists are LSVT TM (Lee Silverman Voice Treatment) certified and PWR! TM (Parkinson Wellness Recovery) trained. Both LSVT BIG and PWR! help improve function and slow motor deterioration in PD patients through intensive exercise. They also help improve a PD patient’s independence while increasing safety, walking and enhancing quality of life.
LSVT LOUD is a treatment for speech disorders associated with PD. It focuses on increasing voice loudness and is delivered by a speech therapist.
“One of the things we see with our clients is that they speak very softly. This helps people vocalize with a higher volume. It helps their ability to engage socially by having better conversations,” Fini said.
Elizabeth Williams Russo, a senior occupational therapist, said patients are seen for a minimum of four weeks, and up to 12 weeks, depending on their treatment plan.
“After their treatment, clients follow-up with therapy for a “tune up” in six to nine months. PD being progressive is always changing, so we need to see where they are at to modify their plan.”
Both Fini and Russo emphasized how studies and research all prove that daily exercise plays a major role in slowing down the progression of PD.
“We definitely want them to be active every day,” Russo said. “When they do, we hear comments from people who say they are able to participate in more daily functions and leisure activities.”
The Outpatient Neurological Rehabilitation Center includes therapy plans for individuals who suffer with atypical parkinsonism, in which most of the symptoms appear earlier and progression of the disease is faster. There is also a PD support group that meets on the third Friday of each month.
When the PEF members initiated this program at the end of 2012, they were seeing about 20 patients. Now, more than 80 people ranging in age from their mid-thirties to 100 are being helped. The program is the only one of its kind in the Hudson Valley, and the word is spreading as their clients come from five neighboring New York counties and Bergen County in New Jersey.
For more information, call the Outpatient Neurological Rehabilitation Center at 845-786-4321 or visit http://helenhayeshospital.org/parkinsons-disease-therapy/.