If you had asked any of the ARC therapists two years ago how they feel about treating newly diagnosed Parkinson’s clients, chances are the response would be a shrug, a sigh and a despondent – “What can I do with them?”, and the patient would get a response of “Come back when you have more problems”. Physiotherapy was based around maintaining general strength, movement and fitness. As the disease progressed we would use balance training to help prevent falls, and compensatory visual or auditory cues to help overcome freezing. All in all, not very inspiring or proactive.
How things have changed! These days at ARC we see a high number of clients with Parkinson’s, from the newly diagnosed to advanced disease stages. We all have a new found enthusiasm for being able to make real changes to this group and have a big impact on their day to day lives.
The reason? We’ve changed the way we think. Before, treatment was about responding to changes and problems caused by the disease progression. But the simple fact is that most people with Parkinson’s have the ability to move better than they do in everyday life, they just need to re-learn how. Here at ARC we show you how to access that potential and aim to teach you how to find it all by yourself.
A lot of newly diagnosed clients come to us feeling they don’t really have any problems or difficulties. However, Parkinson’s disease is diagnosed by symptoms so we know that isn’t true. You may not think it is limiting your life but there are certainly problems, no matter how big or small. I’m sure most of our Parkinson’s clients will agree we go in search of problems like slow and small movements – be it walking or doing buttons, freezing, poor balance, difficulties with complex co-ordination or doing two different things at once. Bigger things like having the confidence to walk the streets at night, cut up steak in a restaurant, even go on an overseas trip. We want to know what things you’ve changed in your life because of Parkinson’s. To work on problems we have to know what they are! This can seem quite confronting in the short term – but trust me (and lots of our clients will back me up here), it’s worth it.
Research is showing just how big a role physiotherapy and exercising in the right way can have on the lives of people with Parkinson’s. Exercise is the only current treatment for Parkinson’s with disease modifying possibilities, which is HUGELY exciting for us as therapists. It won’t reverse the damage that’s been done, but it may slow down further damage and destruction of dopamine producing cells. We commonly use principles such as high effort, forced use and amplitude based training. We throw in extra complexities to tasks and give you two things to do at once – because that is how everyday life works. Our aim is to challenge you – whatever you’re fitness level – and empower you.
As one client put it:
“It’s about me taking control of the Parkinson’s instead of the Parkinson’s controlling me”
And what does this mean to us as therapists? Simple – we love to see our client’s doing well and living their lives. Watching someone realise how well they can move or participate in everyday tasks is almost as exciting for us as it is for you! We love it when client’s come back and tell us how well they managed getting dressed this morning, how they took the dog for a walk, got coins out of a purse, did the vacuuming, stood up from the low soft couch, turned over in bed (without the satin sheets!), washed the dishes…whatever! It is time for the Parkinson’s revolution……are you doing enough?