by Mary Keen
An estimated 1.5 million Americans have Parkinson’s disease, and it is the second most commonly diagnosed neurological disease among the elderly, after Alzheimer’s. When a person is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, they need to begin to understand it and its treatments—to learn to live with it and take charge of one’s life with it. Maintaining a high quality of life is the goal, and persons with Parkinson’s who use CJE’s services can be assured that we do everything possible to achieve success.
About Parkinson’s Disease
Parkinson’s Disease is a movement disorder of the central nervous system caused by the loss of cells in a region of the brain called the substantia nigra. Cells in this region produce dopamine, a chemical messenger that transmits signals within the brain that control movement. Loss of dopamine causes neurons to fire without control, leaving patients less in control of movement. The cause of Parkinson’s is unknown, but researchers are looking into genetics, aging, and toxins as possibilities. With Parkinson’s, one’s motor skills, speech, and other functions can be affected, causing physical and cognitive changes. There are no standard diagnostic tests, like a blood test, for Parkinson’s. Clinicians rely upon patient testimony and a neurological exam.
CJE SeniorLife is confident of this success because it provides a unique, agency-wide training for its staff. Now, whether a client is at Weinberg Community, Adult Day Services, Lieberman Center, Haag Pavilion, or exercise and support groups, they are getting research and method based care. Most CJE direct-care staff—nurses, therapists, social workers and resident aides—are required to take the training.
The Parkinson’s Disease Training Program started four years ago, when CJE SeniorLife, in collaboration with Northwestern University Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders Center and the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, developed an educational series to help staff meet the unique needs of persons with Parkinson’s. Through the training, staff learns about causes and manifestations of Parkinson’s and ways to manage problems encountered by people with Parkinson’s. Ongoing formal evaluations and measurements of relevant clinical outcomes are conducted. For a patient or resident with Parkinson’s Disease, a multi disciplinary team uses an individualized approach. The team—gerontologists, neurologists, physical therapists, speech therapists, social workers, and others—creates a plan for each patient. Besides medication to control symptoms, treatment includes physical and speech therapy. With physical therapy, we improve the patient’s independence and quality of life by working on movement, function and activity levels. We also work to decrease rigidity, optimize gait, improve balance and motor coordination and relieve pain. Speech therapy involves voice exercises to help control speech rate, stress or intonation, loudness, articulation and breathing. Other work may include modification of speech patterns, such as use of shorter sentences.
Besides in-house care, CJE has offered these programs which are free and open to the public:
- “Parkinson’s on the Move,” a specialized exercise program designed to focus on weakened muscles, minimize the risk of falls, and facilitate functional independence with daily routines.
- “Parkinson’s Caregiver Support Group,” an ongoing support group in which caregivers discuss experiences and feelings, share solutions and learn about different resources. Facilitated by a licensed social worker.
- “Artistic Journey of Discovery,” a series of sessions using Art Therapy, recognized as an effective tool for helping persons with Parkinson’s. Offered recently. No series is scheduled at this time.
CJE’s offerings for persons with Parkinson’s Disease and their caregivers run the gamut from the above interactive classes and groups in the community to expert medical care by neurologists and psychologists in our assisted living and long-and short-term care centers. We particularly urge those out in the community who have Parkinson’s—and their caregivers—to take advantage of these extremely helpful programs.
Please call 773.508.1000.
This article originally appeared in the Spring 2013 issue of LIFE, CJE SeniorLife's quarterly magazine.