Program Helps Parkinson’s Patients Keep Their Voice

With help from a new program these patients won’t let Parkinson’s disease steal their voices, according to a recent article.

Kathryn Meek was a successful, energetic woman in her mid-40s already coping with the diagnosis of the disease when another problem set in, the article stated.

“It was like the whole world had gone deaf,” she said in a recent interview. “Having Parkinson’s is tough enough.”

Meek thought she was talking normally but people couldn’t hear what was coming out, according to writer Michael Precker.

“With speech therapy and follow-up treatment Meek sounds loud and clear,” he said. “But only a small percentage of Parkinson’s patients receive speech therapy.”

A project, which is holding a kickoff celebration May 20th wants to expand the reach of speech therapy to people with Parkinson’s even if they can’t pay.

“All the other problems of Parkinson’s overshadow the vocal disorders,” said Samantha Elandary, a speech pathologist and director of the project in an interview. “The best method (of therapy) is called the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment, a program developed in the late 1980s by a Colorado therapist named for the first person helped by it.”

Parkinson’s, a disease affecting nerve cells in the brain, manifests itself in many ways, says Precker.

About 30 North Texas therapists are certified to offer the treatment, known as LSVT, wrote Precker.

“Your brain is tricking you so you think you’re loud when you’re not,” says Elandary.

Before her LSVT training nine years ago, Elandary says, nothing worked for her Parkinson’s patients, writes Precker.

The Richardson, TX therapist has used this method with about 150 Parkinson’s patients, according to Elandary.

“If you can’t communicate, you don’t feel like you’re a person,” said Richard Hacker, a 70-year-old retiree who divides his time between Dallas and Chicago.

When he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s 16 years ago, Hacker said he didn’t notice any voice problems, according to the agency.

He took the LSVT classes four years ago and keeps his voice strong with daily vocal exercises and constant reminders, according to research.

“What’s scary is where I’d be without this,” said Don Sillers, a retired businessman who lives in Highland Park, in a documentary.

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