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Tailor-made therapy in Las Vegas helps people with Parkinson's disease regain mobility

Posted at 10:10 AM, May 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-26 14:29:27-04

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — A unique program is giving some Las Vegas valley residents a new lease on life.

Parkinson's disease is a debilitating disorder that impacts your ability to do everyday tasks, but that's changing thanks to some very special physical therapy.

"The neurologist that he saw noticed the tremor and had him tested for Parkinson's," Ellen Wyatt recalled.

Her husband, Bill, was diagnosed with Parkinson's in January of 2017. It's news that changes the lives of not only that person but their family.

"As it progresses, it gets harder and harder for me, especially to see the changes as they come," Ellen said.

She says it was hard for her husband, a military veteran, to slow down and ask for help. But his strength and mobility began improving when he started a new physical therapy program.

"I was kind of pleased I was doing so well. They're very good here," Bill Wyatt said.

It's called the LSVT BIG Program.

Dr. Tiffany Sunell, a physical therapist at FYZICAL Therapy and Balance Centers, says the treatment encourages big movements from head to toe through a series of intense, one-on-one sessions. Patients are also given a regimen of exercises designed to do at home.

"So, really important for patients that are at risk of fall," Sunell said. "It helps improve functional balance."

The therapy different is tailored to every individual, Sunell explained.

"We give them a list of certain things that are important, like do they want to unload the dishwasher without fear of falling? Do they want to put their clothes on? Do they want to be able to help with the groceries?" Sunell said.

The exercises are comprised of movements meant to help a person perform a task important to them. Bill, for example, wanted to walk on his own and have the ability to write.

"So that was one of the things that we worked on with him, being able to sign his name and it be legible for documentation purposes," said physical therapist assistant, Michelle Hale.

She says the LSVT treatment can also help a person's speech. Many people can struggle to speak when battling Parkinson's.

"It affects their ability to project their voice, and so that's why we incorporate the counting and talking out loud in our program," Hale said.

Sunell says the therapy can feel overwhelming, but those who commit won't regret it.

"Upfront, it looks like the time commitment can be a big challenge. But I always tell people just get in here and you will see a difference by the end of it," Sunell said. "We can't cure Parkinson's, but we can certainly reduce fall risk, improve balance, improve awareness, and even the families as well."

Ellen says it worked for Bill and she's not surprised. Along with a strong can-do attitude, he has a secret weapon.

"He has not lost his sense of humor, and that's a blessing," she said.