Parkinson’s Patients and Physical Therapy: A Partnership for Progress

December 18, 2020

Growing up, I had always wanted to be a teacher. However, when applying to colleges, I was encouraged to try engineering.

My dad had always wanted one of his kids to be an engineer. I was the youngest and his last chance. So, I decided to give it a shot, and somehow I managed it. Four and a half years later, my dad had his engineer in the family.  

I spent a few years in the working world before I decided to be a stay-at-home mom and start my own business. Having my own business allowed me to be a parent volunteer for my three boys. It also gave me the opportunity to be a substitute teacher.

A few months after my diagnosis, I stopped teaching. Interacting with students was fine, but it was difficult for me to manage adults.

Getting back to teaching

Five years later, I am back to teaching. Most recently, I taught part of a Zoom class for a doctorate program in physical therapy. When the professor from Messiah University asked me to speak about Parkinson’s to her class via Zoom, I was nervous but also excited.

While preparing for the class, I sought advice from my daughter-in-law, Nikki, a physical therapist. She gave me a few pointers and told me that my experience has given me a lot to offer.  

When the class began, I had 36 students on my screen. I was terrified, but I needed to trust my best resources: myself and my experience. The professor introduced me and said, “I am turning it over to you.” Now, what do I do?

I told them a few things I would want a therapist to know as a patient with Parkinson’s. 

  • Everyone is different, and not all modalities that are supposed to be used for Parkinson’s patients will work for everyone.  
  • The timing of medications is important. A therapy session during an off time will be different from one when medications are at their peak.
  • Incorporate neuroplasticity and face exercises into the session.  
  • I explained the iceberg concept. Tremors are a visible symptom, but there is much more to the disease that lies “under the surface.” 
  • Exercise and music are beneficial.

Now, are there any questions?

Nothing. We had the dreaded, awkward silence. It only lasted for a few seconds, but it seemed like an eternity. However, after the first question was asked and answered, the tone was set for the remainder of the class.

For the next 50 minutes, we had a very enlightening question-and-answer session. I was relieved that I was able to answer all of the questions. And I managed to teach the students a few extra things as well, including masking, which refers to a face that may be expressionless, but is not necessarily disinterested. It’s a symptom that is important but often misunderstood. 

One common question was, “What is something you find difficult on a day-to-day basis?” I find it difficult that I do not fit the perception of what people with Parkinson’s are supposed to look like. Yet, I do have Parkinson’s, and I do struggle. At the same time, I try to find humor in it every day.

While I was a teacher for the day, I also learned something. Our future is bright. The students I met will go on to do great things.

***

Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

When Lori discovered at 45 that she had young-onset Parkinson’s, she struggled with her diagnosis but decided to attack it with the same tenacity, passion, and care she brought to her career as an engineer, marriage, and motherhood (of 3 boys). Now, at 52, Lori is also a writer, a Rock Steady Boxing Coach, and a personal trainer pursuing her passion of empowering others with Parkinson’s. She hopes her column, “Life, Lemons & Lemonade,” exemplifies something she learned from dancing with her husband, Mike: ”It’s not important HOW you dance. It’s THAT you dance.”
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When Lori discovered at 45 that she had young-onset Parkinson’s, she struggled with her diagnosis but decided to attack it with the same tenacity, passion, and care she brought to her career as an engineer, marriage, and motherhood (of 3 boys). Now, at 52, Lori is also a writer, a Rock Steady Boxing Coach, and a personal trainer pursuing her passion of empowering others with Parkinson’s. She hopes her column, “Life, Lemons & Lemonade,” exemplifies something she learned from dancing with her husband, Mike: ”It’s not important HOW you dance. It’s THAT you dance.”
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