April is Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month.
Every year, 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease, a progressive disorder that can cause tremors; affect motor functions, including movement and balance; and impair non-motor function, too, including memory and cognition. While there are effective treatments to slow the progression on the disease and help manage the symptoms of Parkinson’s, there is currently no cure.
Trillium Woods, a lifeplan community for seniors in Plymouth, MN, offers several different programs all year long to support its residents who have Parkinson’s disease in both our independent living neighborhood and health center.
Using the National Institute for Fitness and Sports’ (NIFS) BOLD Moves program, Trillium Woods residents stand up to Parkinson’s with dedicated fitness classes, support groups, and customized exercise plans that help them maintain strength, balance, and independence.
Trillium Woods was chosen as a pilot community for NIFS’ BOLD Moves program, making its residents with Parkinson’s among the first in the nation to benefit from it.
“BOLD Moves exercise classes are different from many traditional exercise classes for seniors in that they are longer, harder, and designed to get the heart rate up even faster,” explains Trillium Woods Fitness Center Manager Sam Lafaive. “We have two 50-minute BOLD Moves classes twice a week. They are our toughest classes, but people keep coming back once they see how the exercises wake up their muscles and improve the rest of their lives.”
A shuffling gait and a too soft speaking voice are two common Parkinson’s problems that the classes directly address.
“We take big steps and lunges in class to get the brain connected to the idea the steps should be large and not shuffling,” says Lafaive. “Shuffling is dangerous — it can lead to falling, especially on carpeting. We also get everyone ‘yelling’ in class. To the outside observer, this ‘yelling’ sounds like a normal speaking voice, but to someone with Parkinson’s, it feels like shouting. We want them to be comfortable with this level of volume, even though it feels unnatural to them.”
In April, the fitness classes included special boxing workouts to class as a special way to empower residents. In addition, Bold Moves participants were presented with red tulips as a tribute to all of their hard work and dedication on April 11, World Parkinson’s Day. Tulips have become a symbol of Parkinson’s awareness.
At Trillium Woods, TULIPS have another meaning — staff members at The Birches, the community’s health center, are trained in the Struthers Parkinson’s Center TULIPS (Time, Understanding, Quality of Life, Increased awareness, Pills on time, and Support) program. The training modules simulate the symptoms of Parkinson’s to help give team members a better understanding of living with this disease. They also learn the causes, common symptoms, current treatment options, and how to best care for someone with Parkinson’s. The end result is increased empathy and understanding of how to help each resident living with Parkinson’s maintain their independence.