by Amy Natt, MS, CMC, CSA
Q: I was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease three years ago. I am starting to notice the impact on my balance and golf game. My neurologist mentioned that there are exercise programs, but I have a hard time sticking to them. Is there something you would recommend?
A: As we journey through life, a new diagnosis can challenge the day-to-day routines and activities that we have become accustomed to and enjoy. Your mindset of wanting to remain active is key to finding ways to adjust, and that will serve you well both physically and mentally.
Your neurologist or primary care physician can guide you through the medical side of Parkinson’s and possible treatment options, so let’s focus on what you can do to remain proactive and continue living life. As you suggest, exercise can be very important. Many people participate in more formal movement or therapy programs.
These may require a written order from your doctor to enable utilizing insurance coverage. You can simply ask your provider for this documentation. The therapist can help you determine the best program for you and how to maintain it going forward.
North Carolina has many therapists trained in LSVT Big™, or “Training BIG,” a structured training program that specifically targets increasing amplitude of limb and body movement for those with Parkinson’s disease. Many clients I have worked with reported positive results and found it beneficial to maintaining movement. Other physical or occupational therapy programs may be able to specifically target your golf game and individualize a program to you. There are also Movement Disorder
Clinics throughout the state that specialize in programs for individuals like you. Duke and UNC are both good examples. The benefit to exploring these resources now is that you can start to make modifications to your everyday life that will help you stay active and be prepared for future challenges. With an open mind and good support, you can continue to modify activities as needed to meet your needs.
Attending a support group specific to Parkinson’s is another wonderful resource. The group facilitators typically bring in a variety of experts that can offer you information and education on a number of topics. You also gain an opportunity to network with others who have been diagnosed and can share struggles and successes they are experiencing. Your local hospital is often a good place to identify what groups may be in your area. You can also access an Aging Life Care Professional™ in your area at www.AgingLifeCare.org.
If you are struggling with sticking to a specific program, consider finding a training partner. This can be a friend, family member, volunteer or someone you hire to exercise with you and help keep you on track. The initial cost of any of the structured therapy programs will often be covered by Medicare (if you meet eligibility criteria), but the ongoing costs to maintain what you have learned should be discussed, so you know your options.
You might also try writing down your exercise goals or keeping a journal. Perhaps post a picture of yourself golfing as a reminder of what you are working toward.
At some point, be willing to make modifications to maintain your safety and keep an awareness of fall-prevention strategies. We all struggle with motivation, but maintaining those exercises will truly help you achieve your goal of continued activity. Take your time as you go down this path, and continue to seek out resources and opportunities to learn about Parkinson’s and how to live your best each day.
Readers may send questions to Natt, an Aging Life Care ProfessionalTM , certified senior advisor and CEO of Aging Outreach Services. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org