Parkinson's Blog

Live Comfortably - April 26, 2022

Parkinson’s Professionals on Personal Missions

Compassionate Therapy and Support for People with Parkinson’s Disease    

By Timaeus Reed

The Parkinson’s Foundation predicts that more than one million Americans will be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease by the year 2030.  More Americans will be diagnosed with Parkinson’s by that time than the combined number of people diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy and Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Support and treatment for those with Parkinson’s disease improves each year, but caregivers must stay vigilant and innovative to keep up. Thankfully, the Goodwin Home Health and rehab teams are full of compassionate, highly trained clinicians and therapists who live to make a difference in the lives of those with Parkinson’s.

Goodwin Living Director of Community Based Growth Tony Hughes has always had a passion for supporting older adults, especially those who live with Parkinson’s. When he joined the Goodwin Home Health team in 2021, he brought with him years of experience working in social services, the healthcare industry and as a trusted and active member of the Parkinson’s Foundation. We asked Tony about Parkinson’s and its impact on people’s lives, his drive to help older adults and all the ways Goodwin Living provides therapy and support for people with Parkinson’s.

How long have you been with Goodwin Living and what work do you do?

I joined Goodwin Home Health back in June of 2021. In my role, I partner with physician practices, hospital case managers, rehab centers and other healthcare professionals to provide their patients with our in-home health care services. By “in home health care services”, I mean wherever the older adult we’re serving calls home. That could be the home where they raised their children or lived their mid-life years, or it could be a senior living community here in Northern Virginia. Goodwin Home Health serves older adults wherever they live.

One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is working directly with patients and their families as they get introduced and onboarded with our services. I take the time to clearly explain all the help we provide, and to reassure them that an experienced and compassionate team of clinicians is on the way!

What is your educational background and training?

I went to college in upstate New York and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology, with a focus in organizational leadership. After graduating college, I pursued a social services position at a skilled nursing facility. In that role, I gained a deep understanding of the challenges older adults face when they develop a chronic illness or recover from a hospitalization.

As I coordinated discharge plans for patients returning home after rehab, I was fortunate to meet countless representatives from community healthcare organizations. Those relationships led to me accept a role with a home health agency. As an Account Executive, I saw the healthcare industry from all aspects, not just within the four walls of a skilled nursing facility.

I’ve done sales and marketing in the home health care field for almost ten years. Throughout my tenure in the industry, I’ve had the pleasure of working for agencies that not only provided care to Parkinson’s patients, but had a specialized clinical Parkinson’s Program. As of January this year, I was invited to join the Advisory Board for the Parkinson’s Foundation. In addition to the Advisory Board role, I serve as the Chair of the Mission & Outreach committee. Ever since being introduced to the Parkinson’s Foundation, I’ve come to learn the vast array of resources available to those who are recently diagnosed or are struggling with their Parkinson’s diagnosis.

What drew you to working with older adults?

I’ve been considered an old soul since I was a child. I would spend a lot of weekends with my grandparents. My grandmother and I would sit at her dining room table for hours on end playing board games and working on her puzzles. Every week, I genuinely enjoyed tagging along with her group of friends to their trail-walk. They were hilarious. I believe these experiences shaped my natural ability to relate and communicate with older adults. The quality time I spent with my grandparents gave me a more mature sense of respect for their generation, and that has allowed me to empathize with older adults in a much more personal manner.

Tell us about the Goodwin Home Health team. What sort of work do they do?

The Home Health department is made up of nurses, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, home health aides and medical social workers. Our team is led by Melinda Gren, who holds a Doctorate of Physical Therapy. Her clinical expertise enables us to take a patient-centered view on care rather than the financial aspects of care.

The clinical team is supported by our management, operations and community relations team members. We provide high quality, individualized care that incorporates the latest evidence-based practices in home health care. Our services are Medicare-certified and ACHC accredited. Our team delivers nursing, therapy and medical social work services to patients in the comfort of their own homes and retirement communities throughout Northern Virginia.

I’ll often hear people describe home health as a ‘step-down’ from hospital roles. I believe the reality of that is quite the opposite. It takes a very experienced, accommodating and autonomous clinician to achieve long-term success as a home health clinician. I like to describe the care our clinicians provide as an extension or continuation of what is provided in acute care settings. In a hospital setting, nurses and therapists have immediate access to hospital equipment and staff to help with any situation. Home health clinicians are faced with solving similar problems that hospital caregivers face, but with only the resources available to them in the patient’s home. AARP reports that nearly 80% of older adults want to age in place in their homes. Home Health is a vital bridge to making “aging in place in their homes” a reality for the majority of older adults.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s Disease is a progressively degenerative brain disorder that affects predominately dopamine-producing neurons in a specific area of the brain. The cause of Parkinson’s remains largely unknown, but research shows that genetics, exposure to certain toxins and the presence of Lewy Bodies protein in the brain can play a role. Men are one and a half times more likely to develop Parkinson’s and are typically diagnosed in individuals over the age of 60. When Parkinson’s is presented in those under 50, physicians call it Young Onset Parkinson’s Disease. There are five major motor problems associated with Parkinson’s disease: tremors (shaking at rest), slow movements (bradykinesia), generalized muscle stiffness and difficulties with voice or speech. However, the symptoms for Parkinson’s won’t look identical for every person. As a neurologist once told me, “If you’ve met one person with Parkinson’s, then you’ve done just that…you met ONE person with Parkinson’s.”

What types of specialized therapy does Goodwin Home Health offer to help those with Parkinson’s?

We have been providing the LSVT (Lee Silverman Voice Training) BIG & LOUD programs for several years now. Both programs are evidence-based and the gold standard of therapy programs in the Parkinson’s field. These programs are intensive and designed specifically for those living with Parkinson’s Disease, but  they benefit patients with other movement disorders (MS, ALS, etc.) as well.

The LSVT BIG program is facilitated by a physical or occupational therapist, with a focus on making participants move bigger, take bigger steps and improve trunk control and flexibility. LSVT LOUD is facilitated exclusively by speech language pathologists working to  improve participants’ vocal amplitude and variation in pitch while speaking. These programs improve overall communication with others, thus enabling a higher sense of independence for older adults.

Our skilled-nursing team are also able to conduct in-home lab draws, so that patients can avoid a trip to a lab clinic if they experience an onset of illness. Another key element in Parkinson’s care is medication management. Medications to treat Parkinson’s Disease have had a positive impact on managing symptoms, but also pose a great risk if not taken exactly as the physician ordered. Our nurses are able to conduct a full medication reconciliation, provide one-on-one education with patients and caregivers on each medication and provide guidance on different ways to remain compliant with everything prescribed.

A patient’s wife once shared with me how troubling it was for her to not know whether her husband, who suffered from Parkinson’s, needed their extra dose of medication. Our on-call nurse is available 24/7 for these exact situations. We serve as the go-to resource for any clinical concerns or questions our patients or families have — alleviating the constant worry and allowing them to enjoy life! We like to say, “if you’re feeling worse, call your nurse”.

Do therapists require special training to provide these services? If so, what does that entail?

In order to practice as a physical therapist in Virginia, one must graduate from an accredited school with a Doctorate of Physical Therapy, pass the state board exam and obtain their license through the Virginia Board of Physical Therapy. Any eligible therapist providing treatment under either the BIG or LOUD programs must have successfully completed the certification course. The certification is offered directly through the organization who initially designed the program.

How many Goodwin Living therapists have this certification? Do any of them also work at the Life Plan Communities in their Rehab services?

All our full-time therapists are certified to provide treatment under the LSVT BIG and LOUD programs. Goodwin Home Health offers all newly hired therapists to cover all costs associated with successfully completing the certification course.  This helps us ensure we are able to accommodate the growth in Parkinson’s patients requesting therapy services.

The therapists who work under the home health division are separate from the therapy teams who provide treatment within both Goodwin Living Life Plan Communities (LPC). Each LPC is equipped with a fully furnished rehab gym where residents can receive outpatient therapy services without needing to leave the building. The LPC rehab teams also have certified therapists who facilitate the LSVT BIG & LOUD programs.

What should I know if I or a loved one has Parkinson’s?

Simply put – You are not alone!

Those who suffer from Parkinson’s are presented with challenges, often unseen by others, as they manage their activities of daily living. Imagine you’re constantly being disregarded or discredited simply because people aren’t able to fully hear or understand your speech. Unfortunately, these interactions have a big impact on one’s sense of self and independence. That’s what fuels my mission and outreach efforts with the Parkinson’s Foundation. There are many more resources available through the Parkinson’s Foundation that aren’t clinical or educational based.

Whether you’re overwhelmed with a new diagnosis or have been living with Parkinson’s for years, there are incredible resources available to you through various organizations. The Parkinson’s Foundation is a trusted non-profit organization advocating and offering resources that provide life changing support to individuals and families living with Parkinson’s. They offer a free helpline service where you can speak with a social worker that specializes in Parkinson’s to get connected with the appropriate resources regardless of where you are in your Parkinson’s journey. It’s also important to prioritize socialization and fitness. The Parkinson’s Foundation can provide guidance on local events or groups that are either hosted by or funded through their annual community grants.

The most popular activities and classes specifically designed for those with Parkinson’s are boxing, dancing and virtual mindfulness/stretching classes. There are countless people and programs in the community committed to serving those struggling with Parkinson’s. They are just waiting for you to reach out!

Supportive Paths for People with Parkinson’s

People with Parkinson’s disease face a lot of challenges, but there is a healthy path forward with people like Tony eager to help. At Goodwin Living, we ensure that the older adults we support and the staff who care for them have what they need to live their best lives.

If you have questions about Parkinson’s or any of the home health and rehab services we provide, we invite you to contact us at 703.824.1390. If you are interested in working at a growing, vibrant industry and have a passion for helping people, consider the vast range of positions available in senior living and healthcare at Goodwin Living.
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Timaeus Reed is a Marketing and Communications Specialist at GHI. He plans, writes and designs for internal and external campaigns that support all areas of the organization. He relocated from Kansas to D.C. to join the team in the summer of 2021. When he isn’t getting lost in traffic, Timaeus loves listening to live Go-Go music and stand-up comedy.

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