Being Heard with Parkinson’s
Phyllis Hunter of Cedar Falls was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease (PD) in August of 2019. PD is a brain disorder that leads to shaking, stiffness, and problems with walking, balance and coordination. Parkinson’s symptoms usually start slowly and get worse over time. As the disease progresses, people may have trouble walking and talking.
Soon after her diagnosis, a friend told Phyllis about a PD support group that meets each month at Waverly Health Center. Phyllis and her husband started attending and have found it helpful to learn from the various presenters and to discuss problems with others who have the disease, or who are caregivers. They’ve enjoyed various gentle exercises that are often offered and taking part in some fun activities.
Phyllis has also been participating in a virtual Parkinson’s singing group at WHC. The group is led by Kara Rewerts, MT-BC, WHC music therapist. “I look forward to that each Monday and Thursday morning,” Phyllis shared.
“I probably had Parkinson’s before I was diagnosed, because I didn’t know about the many possible symptoms,” Phyllis commented. “One of the symptoms of PD can be a softer, quieter voice. I’ve always had a soft voice, but several people began telling me that they couldn’t hear me.”
Phyllis’s neurologist referred her to Mary Ochoa, MS, CCC-SLP, WHC speech therapy. Mary is certified in the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT LOUD™), a speech treatment for people with PD and other neurological conditions. Mary also leads the PD support group at WHC.
“Up to 90% of people with PD will experience reduced vocal loudness, a monotone voice and imprecise articulation. This can have a negative impact on communication and quality of life,” Mary stated. “LSVT focuses on increasing vocal loudness to normal levels and delivering the treatment in an intense, high-effort manner.”
“When I first met with Mary, she explained that LSVT would involve meeting with her four times a week for a month. At first, I was concerned about driving up to Waverly since I live in Cedar Falls, but after I got started, I enjoyed it and looked forward to getting out (this was in October 2020, during the pandemic),” Phyllis commented.
“Phyllis was very motivated and dedicated to completing the voice exercises and homework tasks that were assigned, which is key to helping achieve the desired improvement. It also helped that she got in for treatment early on, when she first noticed changes,” Mary stated. “By continuing with the exercises on her own and participating in the singing group, she’s been able to maintain those improvements.”
“I feel that the LSVT voice exercises and the singing group have been helping get my voice stronger again. I try to keep active to delay the physical symptoms of Parkinson’s and I do voice exercises to keep my vocal muscles strong,” Phyllis shared. “This winter I had encouragement from three different people I talked to on the phone. Each of them said that I was sounding much better, and one didn’t even know that I had gone to speech therapy. Both Mary and Kara have been very helpful to me!”