Sheila Ens, Lee Silverman Voice Therapy Patient

Sheila Ens - Gladwin, MI

"I went from hiding in my room to regaining a lot of my independence. I feel blessed and thankful for the program."

Therapy for Parkinson's Disease Helped Her Regain Confidence

For Sheila Ens of Gladwin, things just began to fall apart. She tried to overlook it and called herself clumsy, but when she fell off of her swivel chair at work several times, tripped while cutting her lawn and found herself stuttering in familiar situations, she knew something was terribly wrong.

Eventually, Ens had to resign from her beloved job as a Meals-on-Wheels manager for the Gladwin County Council on Aging, as she was unable to do the job. She was soon diagnosed with Parkinson's disease by Neurologist Gregory Dardas, M.D., but came to recognize that she'd probably been experiencing the effects for many years.

Parkinson's disease typically causes tremors, stiffness and slowness of movement, and impairs balance and coordination. It is a progressive disease with no cure, but medications can help relieve symptoms and rehabilitation can also make a difference.

As the disease progressed, Ens regressed. She spent more and more time secluded in her room. Her speech had significantly declined and many people, even her own family members, had difficulty understanding her.

"I knew I was shutting down, and I knew I needed help," she said.

Dr. Dardas recommended that she participate in a physical/occupational therapy program called Lee Silverman Voice Therapy (LSVT®) BIG, and one for speech communication, called LSVT LOUD, which are offered in one-on-one sessions and are customized for each individual patient's needs. For Ens, this included two, one-hour long therapy sessions, four days a week, for four weeks.

"At first I cried. I didn't want to get out of bed and go," she said. "But even after the first session, I could see the progress and the new coping skills I was gaining. I learned basics like how to get up if I fall, how to get out of bed easier, how to speak clearly on the phone and so many other much-needed skills."

During the sessions, Ens had one hour of voice therapy – the LOUD program – and one hour of physical therapy – the BIG program. As the names suggest, they teach participants to speak louder, with purpose, and to move big, with more deliberate movements that help with balance, strength, voice control and confidence. Since completing the four-week program, she continues with her homework to ensure she builds and maintains as much as possible.

"I do my homework faithfully every day and I will for the rest of my life," Ens said. "I'm fighting this disease and the complications by using what I learned in the LSVT BIG and LOUD programs. It helped me get my life back." She also participates in a Parkinson's disease transitions program and a support group through MidMichigan Health.

Today Ens gets up, gets dressed and goes out each day. She rides the bus to do errands and to go to the Senior Center, where she enjoys lunch, cards, bingo and whatever opportunities she finds to participate in and give back. Even the bus drivers comment on how far she's come. She believes interaction with people is vital, and she now has the confidence, range of motion and clear speech to do it. "Even my penmanship is getting better," she said.

"I'm so thankful for the BIG and LOUD programs," Ens said. "I just want to show people what it's helped me to do: regain control and give me a much, much better quality of life. I want to tell people with Parkinson's and other neurological conditions to give it a try. Life is to be lived!"

MidMichigan Health offers several advanced therapies specific to patients with Parkinson's disease, including the LSVT BIG and LOUD programs. Rehabilitation therapy for patients with Parkinson's is available on an outpatient basis in five convenient locations in Alma, Clare, Gladwin, Midland and Mt. Pleasant. Those who would like to learn more about MidMichigan Health's comprehensive rehabilitation services may visit www.midmichigan.org/rehab.

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