WPC Continued….Beware, this may “make you dopey”

Thursday afternoon I went to a very informative session on “Speech and Swallowing”.  There are several points that are worth sharing.  First of all, voluntary coughing is a good thing as opposed to a reflexive cough that occurs when you swallow wrong.  If you are having problems with swallowing , you should see a Speech Pathologist who specializes in PD for an evaluation.  There are many non-medical treatments that are available such as postural changes, diet modification and LSVT/LOUD training.  LSVT/LOUD trains you to speak louder and also strengthens the muscles in your throat that are involved in the swallowing reflex.  There are progams available on-line, but the speakers all recommended working with a Speech Pathologist and using the programs for practice.  The other interesting fact is that the Basal Ganglia in your brain gives the feedback to your speech.  In PD it does not function well and the perception is that your voice is louder than it actually is.  So when others complain that they cannot hear you, think about going for a speech eval.  Finally, sing!  Singing can have a positive effect on your speech.

We all know now that exercise is an essential part of any therapy for PD.  “Exercise as Treatment” reinforced the need for exercise of any kind.  Your brain becomes engaged when you exercise.  It switches from automatic functioning to more cognitive, which in turn can create resiliency/plasticity in the brain.  In other words, your brain is adapting and reconnecting, forming new pathways.  The more complex your exercise, the more effective it is.  A combination of more than one type of exercise is optimal.  If you are new to exercise, you need to work with someone who understands PD and can adapt an exercise program that works for you.  The biggest issue with studies for exercise and PD is that most studies only use people with mild or moderate disease.  People with more advanced PD need to be included to see if they can also benefit from exercise.

Finally, the standing room only session on Complementary Care (CAM) did not disappoint.  CAM care is not embraced by many doctors, but is very popular with patients.  And the research is beginning to prove that it does help in many ways.  Although he had no samples for us to try, Dr. Benzi Kluger spoke about the benefits of Cannibis and the different forms that are available.  Some of his slides are below for your enjoyment.  Dr. Indu Subramanian, who happens to be my MDS, talked about Yoga and its benefits for PD, challenging the doctors in the room to encourage their patients to give it a try.   Dr. Laurie Mischley spoke about her studies using Glutathione for PD, something which is definitely not on the radar of many doctors. The results of the few studies are inconclusive.  Some show benefit, others don’t.  Finally, after some technical difficulties, Matt Ford entertained us with music that we can all relate to, using it as therapy.  He began with “Staying Alive” from Saturday Night Fever and then showed a video of a man who could barely move until he put on some music.  You would never know that he had PD.  At the end, everyone was singing and dancing in the aisles.  He left us wanting more!!!

 

WPC Day 2

Well, I made it on time this morning and headed straight for a session called Synchronizing Breath & Movement for Body Alignment and Posture Integrity, a long name for what it calls in parentheses (IMG_0001.JPGChair Yoga).  I did not expect much after seeing “Chair Yoga” and was pleasantly surprised.  We learned a lot of breathing techniques, including one called “Box Breathing” which the yoga instructor, Aminta Romero St. Onge, said is great for helping with sleep problems.  I will try it and let you know if it works.  And we did some yoga too.  It was a well spent hour.

The morning plenary was was titled Genes and Mechanisms of Sporadic PD.  I missed the beginning, so I have no idea what Sporadic PD is.  Beate Ritz, of UCLA spoke about the effects of pesticides on Central Valley farmworkers (in California) and the increased risk for PD among this population.  Alice Lazzarini told about her transformation from PD researcher to PD patient, an ironic situation that is more common than one would think.  I know of several others.  Finally, Jason Karlawish talked about what you can do with the information that you get from genetic testing for PD, and for other diseases.  He raised many difficult questions about what to do with the knowledge that we will suffer from PD, dementia, Alzheimer’s or other degenerative diseases.  What are our options?  What are our responsibilites to ourselves and our families.

After the session ended, I proceeded to check out the many posters displayed in the exhibit hall.  I needed something more uplifting after that last talk.  There are hundreds of posters on display about research projects from around the world, foundations for PD, exercise programs, nutrition.  It was amazing.  Some of the pimg_0006eople were there to talk about their posters and explain what they are doing.  I have never seen anything like this before.  They actually have tours of the posters that you can sign up for.  Each tour has a different theme.  I did not sign up for a tour, but wandered through, talking to people about their work.   Here is the poster from the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation about the Women and PD Initiative that I participated in last September.  It describes the program and its goals, and the outcome one year later.  I am proud to say that I am represented in 2 sections of the pie chart, both in Media and Repeating events.

In the afternoon, I  bailed out on Sleep Difficulties and headed to Becky Farley’s PWR! Nexus program.  Becky is fabulous!  The room was packed with people eager to move after sitting all day.  And move we did.  Sitting, standing, getting on the floor.  Everyone had a great time.  Here is a 5 second short video of one of the moves.

I went to one last session on Speech and Swallowing and then back to the posters to see several friends do their presentations.  More on both tomorrow.

WPC Day 1

It’s liberating.  When the dance class is going on, there are no patients.  They are dancers

David Leventhal

Day one dawned bright and early.  First sessions at 8:00 am.  I got there at 8:15 and could not get into the yoga session.  That was indicative about most of the day.  Many sessions were standing room only or closed because there are so many people attending the WPC.  That is a good thing and a bad thing.  It is amazing that so many people came together for 4 days of learning, experiencing, networking and more for a conference on PD.  There are People with Parkinsons, Doctors, PT’s, OT’s, researchers, care givers, writers, all going to sessions together.  Some are very technical, others are just fun.  There is something for everyone.

However, it became apparent that with all of the careful planning, there just wasn’t enough room in many of the sessions for all of the people who wanted to get in.  I really wanted to go to the session on Nutrition and PD, but so did a lot of others.  Those who were lucky enough to get in said the session was excellent.  The good thing is that many of the sessions will be available on the WPC website for viewing later.

So what did I go to today?

First, at 8:00 am every morning, there are Hot Topics.  4 short presentations about current research.    Moving through Glass was presented by David Leventhal from Mark Morris Dance and the Dancing for PD program.  Using Glass technology, Leventhal developed a program to provide a hands free way of providing content.  It is easy to use, portable and private.  It gives people the option for tactile and verbal inputs.  Music and audio cues are used to get people going.   There are 4 modules:

  1.  Warming up the body
  2.  Balance – moving in space
  3. Gait training
  4. Unfreezing

Initial user evaluations were generally positive.  64% would recommend it to others and would use it.  All felt the exercises should be longer.  Right now they are limited by the technology.  The program is enjoyable and extends class benefits.  However, it is not a replacement for live experience and it still needs some improvement to integrate the technology better.

Leventhal was then presented with and WPC award for Distinguished Contribuitions to the Parkinson Community for his work with Dancing for Parkinson’s.  In accepting the award, he said that “It’s liberating.  When the dance class is going on, there are no patients.  They are dancers”

There is a wonderful photo exhibit titled “This is Parkinson’s” by Norwegian photographer an20160921_095559d PwP,  Anders Leines.  There are many compelling portraits with personal stories.  I posed with a friend, Clara Kluge, in front of the large group mural.  You can see for yourself how amazing these people are in the photo.

I attended a session titled “Living Well with PD:  It starts at Diagnosis”

Three speakers spoke about how their lives changed forever when they were given the diagnosis and how they coped.   A lot of good quotes came out of this session which was really about getting past the initial shock of the diagnosis and keeping positive about the future.  Bob Kuhn says the challenge to coping begins with 3 words:  Engage, Encourage and Inspire.  His best quote came from Dory in Finding Nemo:

“When life gets you down, you know what you gotta do? Just keep swimming, and swimming and swimming…” 

Jane Busch gave a framework for self-care.  She began by going through the 5 stages of the emotional roller coaster after diagnosis:

  1.  Shock.  I have what????
  2. Denial.  Not me.  It must be a mistake
  3. Anger.  It is not fair
  4.  Fear.  what will happen to me?
  5. Acceptance.  Ok let’s get on with my life.

She describes 5 keys to live by:  Nutrition, Supplements including Vitamin D and Calcium, Exercise, Mindfulness and Volunteering.

The third speaker, Dilys Parker, spoke about the importance of communication beginning with the first visit to the doctor.  Telling your story can be therapeutic and can be helpful to others as they listen to your story.  She gave us the best quote of the day from Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking:  Life is changed in an instant  The ordinary instant.”