Category Archives: Comprehensive Care

Who is on the team.

How can service dogs help Parkinson’s?

Service dog for independenceService dogs are specialty trained to help and protect people with vision, hearing, physical and emotional challenges. Some of the earliest and well-known use of service dogs is the use of guide dogs for blind or visually challenged persons. The majority of people with PD use a Mobility Assistance Dog.

Sometimes a special harness is worn by a Mobility Assistance Dog made for pulling objects, such as wheelchairs.

Service dogs can help a person with Parkinson’s disease in many ways. Here are just a few of the ways:

  • Help with physical tasks around the house such as turning on light switches, opening and closing doors, picking up objects.
  • Assist with walking by helping with balance, act as a support or help a person get up.
  • Hold a person up if they are dizzy.
  • Overcome freezing of gait. This can be done by clearing the way in crowded areas, by using gentle pressure on a person’s leg or leading a person away from a hectic and stressful area that can exacerbate freezing.
  • Exert a calming effect at times of stress and anxiety

Remember these are service dogs and not pets nor a guard dog. They are wonderful and amazing animals that can help you live better. Contact the following sources for more information:

Assistance Dogs International This site offers information on service dogs with FAQ.

Paws with a cause. This site offers general information.

Nationwide Assistance Dog Group and Training Listing. This site lists training and service dog programs by state.

Please tell us how your service dog helps you or share your experience in obtaining one by replying to this post.


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Filed under Community Programs & Updates, Comprehensive Care, Creativity, Encouragement, Inspiration and Motivation

What is music therapy?

Music therapy is the use of music, sound, and rhythm to restore, maintain and/or improving physical, emotional, psychosocial and neurological function. Music therapy is different from simply dance, playing and instrument or singing. Each of these activities is very helpful for movement, mood, and socialization.  In music therapy, not only songs are used but the various components of music, such as a specific tone or frequency of sound, certain patterns of beat or rhythm, harmony, and melody are used together or seperately to tailor the therapy to a persons needs.  Music therapy may involve creating, singing, moving to, and/or listening to music. The therapist is clinically and scientifically  trained to use music benefits and a person transfer these benefits to everyday life, function or activities.  This may include walking, talking, dressing, emotional wellbeing and even personal benefits such as confidence.

A music therapist will evaluate a person’s movement, coordination, muscular function, emotional and social health.  Just like physical therapy, a very specific treatment is designed to target the problem areas and enhance a persons overall well-being.  They use the power of music in generating movement, creating emotions, capitalize on the energizing or calming effect of music, the physical benefits of moving to music.

**Research studies show music therapy has helped the bradykinesia and slowness associated with Parkinson’s disease.***

Music therapists have a bachelors degree or higher and are certified by the board for movement therapists.

See the wellness center for more about music therapy.

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Filed under Comprehensive Care, Self-Care

Walking and balance can significantly impact quality of life- but is treatable.

Movement symptoms such as tremor, rigidity and slowness are the hallmark symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Yet research confirms that these movement problems are not the main contributors to decline in life quality with disease progression. Trouble with balance and falls are a primary motor problem that occurs later in disease and correlates with a change in life quality. Fortunately early and aggressive Physical therapy and balance exercises can make a difference- whether started early before there is a problem or later after falls occur. The Wellness Center highlights additional information about the role of PT and exercise to improve balance and reduce falls.

Follow these helpful hints:

  • See a physical therapy early before you have balance problems to improve your balance and before starting any exercise routine.
  • Advocate for yourself and ask your doctor for a referral if you think you would benefit from PT.
  • Occupational therapy can help reduce fall risk, offer tips and suggestions to improve your home and community safety by reducing risk of falls
  • Remember fatigue and reduced stamina will also increase your chance of falling.  Aerobic (cardio) exercise will improve stamina. Get professional advice from your doctor or PT before starting a program.
  • Stay hydrated.  Low blood pressure from dehydration can lead to dizziness, unsteadiness, fatigue, weakness and confusion- all potential problems that can affect walking.
  • The best exercise is often the one that mimics what you want to do- walking and balance.  If you can, walk, run, dance, play standing computer games such as the Wii, play tennis or other balance supports.
  • Music and a metronome can help you time your gait to a beat.
  • Freezing of gait can improve with queing strategies.
  • Walking, trekking or hiking poles help with balance.
  • Sometimes a walker or cane is needed for balance. This is a positive change not a negative one if this keeps you walking and keeps you safe.
  • Multitasking or doing two things at once can worsen balance problems.  Try to avoid distractions when possible and focus on the task at hand.
  • Yoga and Tai chi can help balance and posture.

Learn more about walking and balance at the Wellness Center.

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Filed under Comprehensive Care, Exercise, Lifestyle, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Progression

How do I find a Parkinson’s physical therapist to keep me exercising?

A physical therapist (PT) can help improve balance, flexibility, coordination and strength.  A PT will work with you PD symptoms to find the best exercise program for your movement and pain. There are two parts to this question: 1. Finding the right therapist and 2. How to stay motivated?   The following tips may help:

Finding the right physical therapist (PT) can be difficult.

  • Ask your neurologist for the name of a PT in your area that specializes in movement problems from brain conditions
  • Call your community hospital’s rehabilitation department and if their therapists are trained as neurology specialist or if they have an active PT program for stroke (although a different condition does require specific knowledge of movement and brain function)
  • Interview your therapist on day one to be sure their style, goals and how these goals will be achieved match yours.
  • Ask people in support groups about PTs that worked for them

How do I stay motivated after PT?  The problem lies in the fact that PT can not continue indefinitely. Medical insurance such as Medicare clearly states that PT sessions must be oriented toward specific and attainable goals. Once these goals are met a person must be discharged from therapy.  This is true even if a person does better in therapy but declines once therapy is complete.

  • You can continue with a PT one on one after discharge but will likely be charged for the service.
  • You can ask the therapist for a group of exercises for you to get started with a personal trainer.  You can find personal trainers in many places including the YMCA, Senior Centers or your local gym. Be sure to ask your trainer how much experience they have with your condition.
  • Call your community hospital help line for more recommendations
  • Consider joining a class at your local community center. Dance, Yoga, Tai chi or even chair exercises can help
  • Look for other specialists such as yoga therapists or Feldenkrais instructors that can be of help
  • Always get approval from you doctor before beginning a new program

Learn more about these topics on the Wellness Center.  Help others and share what works for you by commenting to this post.


Filed under Comprehensive Care, Encouragement, Inspiration and Motivation, Exercise, Lifestyle, Self-Care

When to see a physical therapist

A physical therapist can help at any stage of the disease







I was diagnosed with Parkinsons disease 3 years ago and have never seen a physical therapist.  How do I know when I need one?

Physical therapy (PT) helps movement and muscular strength. A physical therapist evaluates and treats problems related to mobility, motor control, and musculoskeletal conditions. The goals of PT are to maintain and restore maximum movement and functional ability throughout life.   A PT can help anywhere from diagnosis to end of life. 

The emphasis is not simply on treating symptoms of balance and coordination, but to retrain  your nerves and muscles to aproximate a more normal movement pattern and to prevent problems with posture, balance, loss of flexability and reduced stamina for daily activities. 

Get the help you need!. Ask your doctor if a referral is best for you. The Wellness Center has more information on how to set up your comprehensive team and includes a checklist to see if you would benefit from PT and other specialists. Learn more

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Filed under Comprehensive Care, Exercise