Parkinson's Wellness Program | Hackensack Meridian Health   

JFK Johnson Program Substantially Improves Parkinsonian Symptoms

Mobility, self care capability and vocal function improvements gained in inpatient program

Parkinson's Rehab Program

Preliminary data from the JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute’s Parkinson’s Wellness Program—a unique, two-week inpatient rehabilitation immersion for people with Parkinson’s disease—shows that the first 25 patients who participated in the program experienced significant improvement of Parkinson’s symptoms, leading to improved quality of life, overall wellness and ability to perform everyday tasks.

“Our preliminary research shows that patients who completed the Parkinson’s Wellness Program saw mobility increase by 58 percent, self-care abilities improve by 45 percent and vocal functionality improve by 23 percent,” said Sara Cuccurullo, M.D., medical director of the JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute.

The program, which was designed to provide a personalized rehabilitation experience tailored to the unique needs of individuals living with Parkinson’s disease, focuses on restoring and maintaining function and independence.

“In addition to providing physical, occupational and speech therapy that increases independence for our patients with Parkinson’s disease, we also work with them to improve compliance with their medication regimen, assess their needs for assistive devices, adapt their home to enhance safety, and provide education on new treatments, nutrition and wellness-related topics,” said Steven Markos, M.D., a physical medicine and rehabilitation physician. “However, our program is especially unique because it is one of only a few in the nation, and the only inpatient Parkinson’s wellness program that is run by physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians. Using our expertise and resources, our team can go beyond standard-of-care therapies and offer specialized therapies and programs designed especially for Parkinson’s.”

Unlike similar programs offered by other neurology centers, the JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute’s Parkinson’s Wellness Program is staffed by a multidisciplinary team of professionals who are trained to offer Parkinson’s specific therapies, including:

  • ParkinSINGS Choir exercises voice, speech and swallowing muscles through singing.
  • SPEAK OUT! is a speech therapy program that emphasizes speaking with intent. Patients complete speech, voice and cognition exercises.
  • THE LOUD CROWD is a weekly group program for graduates of SPEAK OUT! who work with speech-language pathologists on exercises in a group setting.
  • Rock Steady Boxing® a fitness curriculum that uses non-contact boxing to improve strength, balance and endurance, empowering Parkinson’s patients to “fight back.”
  • LSVT Big teaches people how to use bigger movements automatically in daily living to help manage slowness of movements.
  • LSVT LOUD focuses on increasing vocal loudness to improve intelligibility.
Peter Buckley of Clark, New Jersey, experienced the benefits of the Parkinson’s Wellness Program’s specially tailored therapies and activities firsthand. After living with Parkinson’s disease for 26 years, Buckley enrolled in the program after he and his wife noticed that his balance and speech were beginning to decline, and the couple became concerned about Buckley sustaining a serious injury as a result of a fall. After his participation in the program, Buckley, a 65-year-old former corrections officer, said his balance and overall well being improved significantly. “I’m doing so much better than before,” he said.

“For us, it’s about improving quality of life for every patient,” said Dr. Cuccurullo. “Instead of waiting until a patient has a bad fall, we can get them into our program today, and as a result, they go home stronger, more independent and better able to function.”

Learn more about innovative rehabilitative care at JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute.

2023-2024 Best Hospital Rehabilitation Award from U.S. News & World Report
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