A proactive approach: Working at physical and occupational therapy

Teams dedicated to movement disorders have made a difference for us

Jamie Askari avatar

by Jamie Askari |

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I recently discussed the importance of creating a solid care team to treat Parkinson’s. Expanding on that, I thought it’d be helpful to discuss a vital part of our current care plan: physical and occupational therapy.

Before the pandemic, my husband, Arman, began working with a physical therapist to combat symptoms of his early-onset Parkinson’s disease, which was diagnosed in 2009, when he was 38. But after about a year, the therapy ended abruptly because of COVID-19. Although he was able to practice some of the suggested exercises at home, the in-person visits had been much more effective. He also struggled to stay motivated at home, which can be challenging for anyone, but especially when Parkinson’s symptoms are at their worst.

After taking the pandemic years off from physical therapy, Arman is again having in-person sessions. Those lost years, however, took a toll on his health, and missing out on physical therapy was a large part of it. These sessions benefit him in many ways.

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He has an incredible team of physical therapists who specialize in movement disorders at the Cleveland Clinic. Their training allows for a targeted approach to help Parkinson’s patients gain independence and confidence by working on large motor skills to improve safety, mobility, and fall risk.

The physical therapy office is equipped with sophisticated tools to safely aid patients during their sessions. Arman, for example, is often tethered to a bungee cord attached to the ceiling to protect him from falls during certain exercises. Treadmills there offer simulated games, obstacles, and special tools to assess speed, gait, walking, balance, and ambulation. Therapists constantly evaluate and reevaluate their patients’ progress.

Arman is also seeing an occupational therapist, who helps him work on fine motor movements and other acts of daily living. One of the main occupational therapy goals for Parkinson’s is to maximize patients’ independence. Like his team of physical therapists, Arman’s occupational therapists are specifically trained to work with patients with movement disorders.

Arman is fortunate that his physical and occupational therapists are in the same office and only see patients with movement disorders. These specialists communicate about the best plan for Arman and his Parkinson’s, using a team approach to patient care and individualized therapy plans.

Another helpful aspect of these therapies is the social piece. Seeing others dealing with similar issues at therapy can lessen a patient’s feelings of isolation and loneliness, which became a big problem during the worst years of the pandemic. Another bonus is having therapists who are in your corner and celebrating the small wins in your progress.

Arman has found these therapies to be an important asset to his care plan. He feels he has more control over his falls, balance, body, and the disease in general. For us, the work has been a proactive way to fight Parkinson’s.

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, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.


Alicia Ten Eyck avatar

Alicia Ten Eyck

I am very interested in your article and therapy for my husband's parkinson's. How do you pay for it? My husband just started doctor ordered physical therapy on a sore shoulder and insurance does not cover it, I think because the therapist does not work with insurance. Pete is on Medicare. We are paying $175/visit for 2-3 visits per week.

Jamie Askari avatar

Jamie Askari

Hi Alicia! We use the PT and OT at the same hospital system where my husband sees his neurologist. It is partially covered by his insurance, but not fully unfortunately.Thank you for reading!


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