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I’m Learning that Life Doesn’t Always Need to Be Lived ‘My Way’

my way, courage

I saw a musical movie with my daughter a while back. We were the only people in the theater and we had a great time. The only problem is that these types of movies awaken my repressed desire to sing and dance, much to my family’s despair. 

I left the theater singing, adding a few little dance moves to the words I could remember (which were few) in my song of choice. (Yes, the attendant behind the snack bar delighted in laughing at me.)

Pain in pleasure

And then, in one of my graceful moves, I threw out my back. The pain seared through the entire middle section. Fortunately, it didn’t last too long.

What was unfortunate, however, was coming face to face with Parkinson’s disease once again. I know that no matter what my heart desires, this thieving disease will determine whether I can do what I’d like to do. Ultimately, it isn’t my decision to make. Not really, anyhow.

My way would be a different way

If I had my way, I’d join a dance class and learn to waltz.

If I had my way, I’d go skiing just one more time.

If I had my way, I’d play softball and hit a home run.

If I had my way, I’d put on my own socks and shoes.

If I had my way, I’d insist that I can do it all myself.

If I had my way, I’d do many things I once could do but can no longer do.

But today is different

I can’t have my way. Parkinson’s has seen to that.

I’ve had to learn to receive and accept that I am not always able to give.

I’ve had to learn that dancing will have to wait, at least for right now.

I’ve had to learn that skiing is not for me anymore.

I’ve had to learn that others are able and willing to do what I cannot.

I’ve learned, unlike Frank Sinatra, that I don’t always have to have it — or do it — my way.

And I’m learning … that’s all OK.

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

The post I’m Learning that Life Doesn’t Always Need to Be Lived ‘My Way’ appeared first on Parkinson’s News Today.

Playing Helps to Calm a Blustery Day with Parkinson’s

playing

Fall is rapidly passing by, and with it goes your last opportunity to fly a kite. Even though April is National Kite Flying Month, I have always thought the blustery days of fall were the best time of year for kite flying.

I love blustery days, when the wind whistles through the trees and leaves are blown every which way. Taking a walk through the park with my grandkids in tow and stopping to jump in a pile of rich autumn color brings out the child in me, and I feel a longing to revisit my younger days.

We know we can’t go back, but going forward doesn’t have to mean succumbing to old age just because we’ve been selected to play in the Parkinson’s band. The child in us should be let loose to play as it once was: wild and free, laughing and giggling, dancing and singing. 

Laughter does a body good

You’ve heard it said that laughter is the best medicine. Where you hear laughter, you’ll most likely find someone playing or jesting with another person. There are many ways to play, and no reason not to.

Although Halloween is my least favorite holiday because it’s so creepy, I admit that I got a kick out of our 65-year-old neighbor who used to go trick-or-treating each year as SpongeBob SquarePants.

I always laughed when I answered the doorbell and found him standing there with his pillowcase half full of candy. After getting his treat, he would walk to the next house in his royal blue tights. I think he got more treats than the kids did.

To quote George Bernard Shaw, “We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing.”

The next time your grandkids (or kids) are with you, don’t fill the time with channel surfing or watch their backs as they play video games. Instead, get out a game or a puzzle and do it together. On a rainy day, play ball in the house using balloons or have a fluff war using large pompoms, hiding behind couches and chairs or tables turned on their sides.

While I was visiting my son, he and his family played games of basketball and baseball. I mainly watched, but I wish I could have bottled their infectious laughter — that stuff that’s like medicine to a weary spirit — and brought it home with me.

Play can be creative

You can also play creatively. You don’t have to be an artist to draw or paint. There are hundreds of YouTube videos that show how to create beautiful pictures step by step. Some of my favorites are about pour painting. You pour different colors of paint into a cup, turn the cup upside down on a canvas, let the paint spread out (with a little coaxing), and voila! You’ve made an original artwork.

The opposite of a blustery day is a calm day, but sometimes it’s hard to feel calm when you’re living with a disease that can constantly have you shaking on the inside as well as the outside. That’s when it’s time to put on your windbreaker, head outside with your kite, and watch the song from “Mary Poppins” come alive:

When you send it flyin’ up there
All at once you’re lighter than air
You can dance on the breeze
Over ‘ouses and trees
With your fist ‘olding tight
To the string of your kite

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

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Keeping Songs Going in the Head Helps Parkinson’s Patients Walk More Naturally, Study Says

walking and music

Singing a rhythmic tune out loud or, even better, simply listening to it play in your head can help older adults — including those with Parkinson’s disease — to walk more naturally and at a steadier pace, a study reports.

The study, “Mental Singing Reduces Gait Variability More Than Music Listening for Healthy Older Adults and People With Parkinson Disease” was published in the Journal of Neurologic Physical Therapy.

People with Parkinson’s disease tend to walk slower and with less stability than healthy adults of similar age. Lower gait speed is thought to be a consequence of shorter step lengths and decreased step frequency, indicating a decline in overall health.

Listening to music (what scientists refer to as an external auditory cue) is known to help normalize gait speed in Parkinson’s patients. “By creating an external template to which people can align their footfalls, auditory cues impose a walking cadence that, presumably, reduces reliance on defective internal timing mechanisms and increases motivation, thereby increasing walking speed,” the researchers wrote.

External cues essentially set a pace that listeners respond to, restoring a rhythm to their gait and reducing variability.

But it doesn’t always work as intended, the researchers noted. Some studies have found that listening to music can actually increase gait variability in some Parkinson’s patients and older adults, possibly reflecting “the difficulty of synchronizing to an outside source.”

Washington University (WUSTL) researchers previously reported that singing aloud (an internal cue) leads to motor benefits in Parkinson’s patients similar to those in people who did well listening to music (an external cue).

This team now set out to determine whether singing aloud without music or singing to oneself mentally could elicit similar gait improvements as listening to music, reasoning that such an internal cue “utilizes vocal-motor coupling to match one’s movement to one’s own voice,” they wrote.

A total of 60 people, 30 men and 30 women, were included in the study. Half were diagnosed Parkinson’s patients and the other half were healthy older adults serving as controls. Patients (all tested in an “on” state of medication) had a mean age of 65.8, and controls a mean age of 64.9.

Participants walked under three distinct test conditions: listening to music, or singing aloud without music and singing mentally. All three tests were also performed at three different tempos: at the person’s preferred walking speed (cadence), 10% slower, and 10% faster.

“All conditions were cued using an instrumental version of ‘Row, Row, Row your Boat’ designed with a salient beat that could be readily detected by participants. Everyone was familiar with the lyrics and melody of the song and able to sing it without difficulty,” the researchers wrote.

As expected, Parkinson’s patients walked slower, took shorter steps, and had higher levels of gait variability and asymmetry that did healthy adults.

Both controls and patients showed a better walking performance with mental singing, with benefits similar to those triggered by external cues.  “However, only internal cues elicited improvements in gait variability as well,” the researchers wrote.

In their earlier work, these researchers showed that singing aloud generally lowered gait variability measures in ways that compared with externally generated cues. This time around, they found that singing to yourself mentally elicited even greater reductions in variability than overt singing.

Walking at a faster than the usual pace — prompted by a faster tempo — was also associated with improved velocity and lesser gait variability in both groups. “Variability decreases were more substantial during mental singing at tempos at or above preferred cadence,” the researchers wrote.

“[M]ental singing provides more benefit to gait variability than singing aloud, which makes internal cueing more practical for everyday use,” they concluded, adding that optimizing the use of internal cues to aid movement “is an important step toward more effectively meeting the needs of people with gait disorders related to aging or neurological disease.”

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Harnessing the Power of Music

Listening to music

A proud, black piano stands in my parents’ living room. It’s the foundation of our home. From behind the sleek mahogany panels, fury, sadness, and happiness express themselves without judgment. My operatic brother sings his troubles away. My mom, a lifelong piano teacher, often alludes to the power of music because it isn’t just a creative outlet. It’s a mood-setter. It establishes rhythm and dance. Therapists use it to explore cognitive and emotional turmoil. And it also facilitates social change.

“Powerful songs have always been the engine behind the greatest social movements — it is the marching soundtrack that unites the people and gives them focus and resolve, and it’s not limited to the U.S.,” Barrett Martin writes in HuffPost. “In 1970s Nigeria, Fela Kuti invented Afro Beat music as a way to protest the oil company regime of Nigeria. His song ‘Zombie’ became a global hit that railed against Nigeria’s military dictators. In South Africa, the indigenous Mbatanga music helped bring about the end of apartheid and it spread a message of peace and reconciliation in that nation.”

If music is powerful enough to inspire entire chapters of history, what else is it capable of doing?

Parkinson’s disease and music

Music is powerful for a number of reasons; listening to it releases dopamine and serotonin – neurotransmitters that decline in Parkinson’s patients. But a study published in 2008 suggests that learning how to play an instrument also develops motor skills and reasoning abilities. Children who learned to play an instrument exhibited more advanced motor and reasoning skills than children who didn’t learn to play an instrument.

That same study states that, “Parallels between music and language have been used to support the hypothesis that music training may strengthen verbal skills.” Since music may help to develop speech patterns, exploring sound offers a tangible solution to verbal decline. Changes in speech occur with the progression of Parkinson’s. But active participation in music challenges the progression of Parkinson’s disease. Rather than observing consistent loss, Parkinson’s patients can explore music as a source of development.

Singing and Parkinson’s disease

If you’re feeling particularly enthusiastic about singing, consider joining a Parkinson’s singing group. In the same way that music changed history for entire communities, Parkinson’s singing groups offer a sense of camaraderie that’s powerful in itself. Producing endorphins in those who participate, singing is both cathartic and constructive. And it even boosts the immune system.

A small 2012 study in Norway found that group music therapy positively affected five of six Parkinson’s patients. While speech patterns didn’t noticeably improve, a decline in speech also didn’t occur during the study. This suggests that group singing may slow the progression of speech-related outcomes for Parkinson’s patients.

Singing encourages focus on breath support, diction, volume, and emotion. Vocal strength and articulation can challenge many Parkinson’s patients. But singing reinforces some of the functions that otherwise degrade.

Moving forward

Parkinson’s disease is degenerative and continuously heartbreaking in its thievery, but there are ways you can use music to fight its progression. Whether you’re interested in listening to records, picking up an instrument, or using your good ol’ vocal cords to bring happiness into your life, music offers incredible benefits to those who explore it.

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Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.

The post Harnessing the Power of Music appeared first on Parkinson’s News Today.

Singing Therapy Programs like ‘ParkinSong’ May Prevent Communication Impairment, Study Suggests

singing ParkinSong

Intensive singing interventions have the potential to increase vocal loudness, respiratory muscle strength, and voice-related quality of life in people with Parkinson’s disease, a study suggests.

The study, “ParkinSong: A Controlled Trial of Singing-Based Therapy for Parkinson’s Disease,” was published in Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair.

Communication impairment is common among Parkinson’s patients. The neurodegenerative disorder not only affects the muscles needed for movement, but also the ones necessary to control communication capacity, including speech and facial expressions.

Around 90% of those living with Parkinson’s have voice and speech changes, but few seek medical advice. Patients’ voice can become difficult to hear due to throat muscle rigidity (stiffness).

There are known similarities between anatomical and neural requirements for both singing and speaking. Evidence suggests that singing may have the potential to ease some of the speech-motor changes associated with several neurological disorders.

Researchers from the University of Melbourne in Australia examined the impact of a singing-based therapeutic intervention, called ParkinSong, on voice, speech, respiratory function, and voice-related quality-of-life in people with Parkinson’s.

A total 75 patients, 46 men and 29 women with a mean age of 74.3 years, were included in the controlled trial (ACTRN12617000528358). Participants were randomly assigned to four groups, in which they engaged in singing-based intervention with different frequency. The ParkinSong weekly group comprised 20 individuals and the monthly group 27, while the control weekly counted 15 participants and the control monthly group had 13.

According to the investigators, this is the first controlled trial studying the efficacy of a singing-based therapeutic training program in Parkinson’s disease.

ParkinSong training consisted of 30 minutes of high-intensity music-based vocal exercises incorporating respiratory control, vocal loudness, pitch control, and speech clarification strategy activities. After that, participants underwent 60 minutes of singing popular and traditional songs and rounds, with a focus on loud voice projection and increased respiratory support. Patients then had 30 minutes of social interaction and conversation practice over morning or afternoon tea, where they were asked to use the strategies for generating loud voice that had been practiced during the training session. The intervention was delivered either once a week or once a month, for three months.

“Weekly control participants attended weekly painting, dancing, or tai chi sessions, and monthly control participants attended monthly peer support groups,” the researchers said.

The team found that patients in the ParkinSong sessions had significantly better vocal intensity, respiratory muscle strength (as measured by maximum expiratory pressure), and voice-related quality of life, compared with those in the control groups. Voice-related quality of life was scored by applying the Voice Activity and Participation Profile (VAPP) questionnaire, a reliable measure for assessing patients’ voice problems and degree of severity.

Comparison of weekly and monthly ParkinSong interventions revealed there was a higher vocal intensity in the weekly group, suggesting that the intensive approach positively affected speech characteristics.

After completion of the three months of therapeutic intervention, loudness decreased in both control groups, and there were no differences between the groups on the longest time patients could say a vowel, or on inspiratory muscle strength.

“Singing groups offer an engaging way to enhance voice and communication for people living with [mild to moderately severe] Parkinson’s disease as well as providing opportunities for socialization,” the researchers concluded.

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