Parkinson’s Disease Program at Hackensack Meridian JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute Honored as “Program of the Year” by New Jersey Speech-Language-Hearing Association

September 20, 2021

Pictured L-R, Janice P. Dibling MS,CCC/SLP, Manager of Acute and Inpatient Rehabilitation Speech Pathology, Kristie R. Soriano MS,CCC/SLP Clinical Director Speech; Alyson Chananie, MS,CCC-SLP Speech-Language Pathologist.

The Parkinson’s Disease Program at Hackensack Meridian JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute, was honored as “Program of the Year for 2020*” by the New Jersey Speech-Language Hearing Association (NJSHA) at an awards ceremony held yesterday in Kenilworth, NJ.

The NJSHA “Honors and Awards” Program recognizes professionals and students who have made a significant impact within the speech-language-hearing professions and on the lives of individuals they serve.

The Program of the Year award recognizes innovative ideas or strategies that provide unique services to individuals with speech, language and hearing or balance disorders. It also recognizes: successful interventions for underserved populations; advancement of speech-language therapy or audiology; recognition and promotion of professionals who care for people with speech, language-pathology and/or audiology disorders; and increasing public awareness about these conditions.

“We are delighted to honor JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute with the 2020 Program of the Year Award for its exemplary Parkinson’s disease services,” said Kathleen Palatucci, president, NJSHA. “We have 2,000 members of NJSHA, so it’s truly an honor for one program to be singled out for its excellence. The outstanding Parkinson’s program at JFK Johnson offers comprehensive services as well as cutting-edge approaches to improve and maintain function for people who are dealing with this neurological disease. The program offers creative services to improve speech of people with Parkinson’s, heightening both their day to day functioning and their quality of life.

At JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute, we are very proud of and grateful for this recognition of our Parkinson’s program by NJSHA,” said Sara Cuccurullo, MD, medical director and vice president of JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute. “This award reflects the dedication and teamwork of the program’s staff – doctors, nurses, specialized therapists and all of our care providers — who constantly look to innovate and improve care.”

Parkinson’s disease is a movement disorder that affects numerous aspects of an individual’s life including motor and non-motor functions,” said Anne Eckert, AuD, Administrative Director of Rehabilitation at JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute. “It can affect speech as well, including speaking quietly and with one tone. Sometimes people with Parkinson’s may sound breathy or hoarse. At our program, each person is treated individually with a customized treatment plan that assesses physical performance and functional ability with the goal of maximizing independence at home and in community settings. Our services give people a way to socialize and regain function, and that gives them hope for the future.”

Some examples of the JFK Johnson Parkinson’s Program include customized speech therapy, a choir for people with Parkinson’s, a weekly patient support program that provides encouragement and accountability among its members, a fitness curriculum using non-contact boxing, and an exercise protocol that incorporates movement into daily living for patients with Parkinson’s disease and other neurological conditions.

Our goal is to work with people who have Parkinson’s disease achieve their goals, whatever they might be. From independence in their daily lives, to being better understood by their loved ones or in the grocery store, we are here to assist patients achieve what is most important in their lives,” said Kristie R. Soriano, MS, CCC/SLP, Clinical Director, Speech, Manager of Outpatient Speech Programs, Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology, JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute.

See below for more information about the specialized Parkinson’s programs at JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute:

About Parkinson’s disease1

Parkinson’s disease is a motor-system disorder that causes unintended or uncontrollable movements of the body. It may cause cognitive problems later in the course of the disease. The precise cause of Parkinson’s is unknown. Some cases are hereditary while others are thought to occur from a combination of genetics and environmental factors. In Parkinson’s, brain cells become damaged or die in the part of the brain that produces dopamine–a chemical needed to produce smooth, purposeful movement.

According to the Parkinson’s Foundation, nearly one million people in the U.S. are living with Parkinson’s disease, and this number is expected to increase to 1.2 million by 2030. Approximately 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year.2

The four primary symptoms of Parkinson’s are:

  • Tremor–shaking that has a characteristic rhythmic back and forth motion

  • Rigidity–muscle stiffness or a resistance to movement, where muscles remain constantly tense and contracted

  • Bradykinesia–slowing of spontaneous and automatic movement that can make it difficult to perform simple tasks or rapidly perform routine movements

  • Postural instability–impaired balance and changes in posture that can increase the risk of falls.

Other symptoms may include difficulty swallowing, chewing, or speaking; emotional changes; urinary problems or constipation; dementia or other cognitive problems; fatigue; and problems sleeping. At present, there is no cure for Parkinson’s disease, but a variety of medications provide relief from the symptoms.1

*Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, announcement of the 2020 award was postponed until this time.

1US National Institutes of Health, 2021

2Parkinson’s Foundation, 2021