International Parkinson's Disease Program Now Treats Polk County

COLUMBUS, NC - People living with the challenges of Parkinson's Disease (PD) now have the opportunity to learn exercises that will improve their balance, motor, and voice control, as well as inspire confidence while dealing with a potentially debilitating disease.

Karol Young, OTD, OTR/L, CHT, and Shannon McCool, CCC, SLP, of St. Luke's Hospital Rehab Center in Columbus, North Carolina, have been trained in two new therapy programs LSVT BIG® and LSVT LOUD® thanks to a grant from the Dr. William R. Bosien fund through the Polk County Community Foundation.

After receiving a referral from a physician, patients who are diagnosed with PD are admitted to either of the four-week programs that both consist of 60-minute sessions four times per week at St. Luke's Hospital. In sessions, participants work one-on-one with therapists, learning to use exaggerated motions and sounds. These exaggerations are intended to offset the stiff, slow, and impaired movement and speech that are common symptoms of PD.

Young and McCool individualize the exercises to increase the effect of the treatment. Patients are also given daily homework to prolong the effectiveness of the therapy.

Warning signs that someone may have PD are loss of smell or taste, smaller handwriting, body tremors, difficulty sleeping, constipation, poor posture, and lack of facial expression. While Parkinson's symptoms may be obvious to friends and family, "Most patients with Parkinson's don't perceive themselves as changed," McCool said. "One of the outcomes of BIG and LOUD is changing that perception."

"The program is really about neuroplasticity," or the brain's ability to change and adapt, McCool added. "What we're trying to do is retrain the brain."

Young noted that many individuals who have been diagnosed with PD are "community-oriented people who are engaged in meaningful activities," and that the BIG and LOUD programs are helping them deal not only with the medical symptoms but in connecting with family, volunteering within the community, managing mental wellness, and getting back to work.

"It's a rigorous program," Young said, "but we're excited to offer it as another way we can provide exceptional care to people of this community."

St. Luke's Hospital has already seen its first LSVT patient and is accepting others with PD who have received a physician referral. Medicare and most insurances will cover the BIG and LOUD therapy programs. For more information, call St. Luke's Hospital Rehab Center at (828) 894-0538.