Bettering Life with Parkinson’s: August 12, 2013

Jerry Bramlett is among the one million people in the U.S. who is living life with Parkinson’s disease.

“I started progressing with Parkinson’s when I was in my early 40s. I noticed a tremor and I was having trouble with my balance. And people kept saying that I was mad all the time cause they said I had a masked face,” says Bramlett.

Bramlett has come along way since then, and so has the way we treat people with Parkinson’s.

“What was thought at one point, medication was the only thing that could help with Parkinson’s. But scientific research has proven that exercise started very, very, early- and the diagnosis is the key,” says Nathalie Grondin, physical therapist on Lee Memorial Health System’s medical staff.

The diagnosis used to be an end-point.  Now it’s a beginning.

“So lean into my hand, lean, lean, lean and this is what we want to see. A person with Parkinson’s would do all these small steps ineffectively and this is why they tend to go backwards,” says Grondin.

Professionals with Lee Memorial Health System are trained to work with Parkinson’s patients and assess their skills.

“There’s 41 different areas we evaluate on a scale 0 thru 4 and we would grade people on these areas it’s called Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale,” says Grondin.

The screening creates a snapshot in time. How a patient is doing at a particular moment and what therapies could make their lives easier.

“Regular exercise, activity targeted towards specific problems can actually slow the progression of Parkinson’s,” says Grondin.

This neurodegenerative disease is marked by rigidity. Therapy falls into three areas: physical, occupational and speech. Bramlett used them all to his advantage.

“The more you work at it, the more it improves,” says Bramlett. 

Bramlett was such a good pupil; he is now helping others as a Parkinson’s exercise class leader.