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A self-management rehabilitation study may help people with Parkinson

Boston University : 11 April, 2005  (Technical Article)
Investigators at Boston University and Boston Medical Center received a three year, one million dollar grant from the National Institute of Health and National Institute on Aging to study the effectiveness of a “self-management” multidisciplinary rehabilitation program for people with Parkinson’s disease. The goal of the study is to determine whether a specialized rehabilitation program, led by licensed physical, occupational and speech therapists, can help people with Parkinson’s disease improve their ability to function in day-to day life.

Participants in the program attend therapy sessions at Sargent College, BU for six weeks where they learn strategies to improve functional abilities such as handwriting, walking, speaking louder and getting up from the floor. In addition, participants are instructed in specific strengthening and stretching exercises to improve overall mobility. Through discussions with therapists and other participants, individuals with Parkinson’s disease learn the skills necessary to manage the disease more effectively over the long-term.

Participants such as Christie Mostone, of Medford, MA, have shown much improvement with walking, flexibility, and performing daily tasks after this six week program. Those with the greatest, long term improvement were those who continued practices they learned during the program on their own after it was over.

When asked about his experience with this program, Mostone said, “For me, it was the first sign of hope. I was afraid to do things before, and now I’m not. I’m even able to go fishing with my grandson.”

Mostone estimates that his quality of life has improved about 30% since beginning this program.

“Combining these three therapies helps participants learn to manage their symptoms even in the earliest stages of the disease,” said Robert Wagenaar, PhD, principle investigator of the study and chairman of the department of rehabilitation sciences at BU Sargent College. “Previous research shows that rehabilitation can improve the functional capabilities of people with Parkinson’s disease. We aim to provide participants with the tools they need to improve their day-to-day function.”

Eighty people with Parkinson’s disease have participated in this study to date. Space is now available for spring rehabilitation groups. To qualify for the study, participants must have a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease and be able to walk without the assistance of another person. Two-thirds of participants are randomly assigned participate in a rehabilitation program and one-third participate in a control condition in which they do not receive the rehabilitation. This study will continue through September 2005. To find out more about participating in this study, please contact Cathi Thomas at 617-638-7737.

The Center for Neurological Rehabilitation was established in 2001 and is a division of Sargent College Clinical Centers. The Center houses research, educational and clinical activities serving patients with a variety of neurological diagnoses.
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