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Neuroscience

Parkinson's Programs Reach Out to Patients

Medicating With Tai Chi When Cape Coral resident Rose Sandecki was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2009, she felt isolated. Then, she started attending an exercise group for Parkinson's patients at the Wellness Center of Cape Coral—a class Lee Memorial Health System co-sponsors with Hope Parkinson Program. More than two years later, she still exercises with the group twice a week.

"It's good to know that other people are going through the same thing," Rose says. "The people in this group have gotten pretty close. It's a tough thing to go through."

Lee Memorial Health System offers the complete continuum of rehabilitative care for patients living with Parkinson's disease, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system that results in shaking (tremors), stiffness (rigidity), slow movements and difficulty walking. In the later stages, patients may experience cognitive and behavioral changes, dementia and death.

Lee Memorial Health System holds regular community resource screenings for people who have been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and wish to find out about the multitude of resources available to them. These may include education, support groups, exercise groups, and screenings to identify individualized therapy needs.

"The ideal participant is someone who wants to maximize his or her personal abilities through the use of community programs, or persons with increasing dysfunction who want to learn more about treatment possibilities," says Nathalie Grondin, physical therapist with Lee Memorial Health System. A participant can expect to visit with a physical therapist to address mobility concerns, an occupational therapist to address selfcare activities and home management, as well as a speech language pathologist to discuss communication and swallowing concerns.

Parkinson's disease affects between 1 million and 1.5 million Americans. The disease usually occurs in people older than age 50 but can strike young people. Actor Michael J. Fox was diagnosed with the disease at the age of 30 but did not share his diagnosis with the public for seven years. Former boxing champion Muhammad Ali also lives with the disease.

Speech pathologist Mary Jo Haughey works with Parkinson's patients to improve their speech and maintain their ability to converse.

"Sometimes patients lose the volume in their voice," she says. "When we help them increase the volume, it opens up a whole new world for them. It increases their socialization."

For Rose, taking advantage of available programs has helped her move past her diagnosis.

"You have to keep moving," she says. "This diagnosis has made me reluctant to use a computer, because I can't hit all the keys, it has affected my writing and has led to some depression. Doing something with people who are affected the same way, makes you get out there and keep going."

Community exercise programs made available in collaboration with Hope Parkinson's Program.

Parkinson's exercise class
1 p.m., Tuesday and Thursday
Wellness Center of Cape Coral
Call 573-4800 for reservations.

Aquatic Art exercise program in the pool
1 p.m., Monday and Wednesday
Wellness Center of Cape Coral
Call 573-4800 for reservations.

“It's good to know that other people are going through the same thing,“ says Parkinson's patient, Rose Sandecki. “The people in this group have gotten pretty close. It's a tough thing to go through.”

Exercise Picks up People with Parkinson's

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