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More than just exercise for Parkinson’s patients

October 8, 2018

Weldon Crews originally signed up for the NCH Parkinson’s Exercise Class to help him deal with physical challenges related to Parkinson’s disease and a stroke. But the weekly class at NCH’s Rolling Meadows Outpatient Center for Physical Rehabilitation has evolved into much more than just exercise for the 77-year-old Buffalo Grove man. It’s a confidence booster, a fun social outing and it’s helping him to feel better.

“If he just had the exercises to do at home, it wouldn’t be as beneficial as getting in class with his peers with the same handicaps,” says Weldon’s wife Becky. “It’s motivational. It’s something he wants to go to, and he comes home tired. It’s just the best thing we’ve found for recovery.”

Becky notes that after the class, Weldon’s walking, speech and memory improve. Another plus: the hour-long class costs just $3, paid at sign-in.

“It is never the same class,” says Mary Rose “Marie” Aquino, one of the physical therapists/instructors who has been leading it for several years.

Sometimes the class incorporates music, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes they do standing exercises, sometimes sitting exercises. Sometimes they exercise using balls, elastic bands or musical instruments. There’s an easy camaraderie among the group, and everyone talks, laughs and enjoys themselves.

“They don’t get bored,” Marie says. “It’s creative, it works on their endurance, and it works on their balance. Every week, there are a variety of therapies.”

Aquino says the class has improved people’s walking and balance. Weldon’s doctor, Richard Higgins, M.D., is pleased with the results he’s seen from the class.

“Therapy is always helpful to get people back to where they were before,” he says. “People sometimes need tune-ups.”

“With Parkinson’s,” Dr. Higgins says, “the biggest issue is fall risks. People with Parkinson’s disease need to have therapy periodically.”

Weldon first noticed something was wrong when his voice changed, and he started talking more quietly. His gait changed as well – his wife said when they walked holding hands, she noticed his arm didn’t swing and his hand was stiff. Even his facial expression seemed different. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2011, suffered a stroke in 2015 and took a bad fall a year ago. But Weldon has been able to accomplish all of the exercises his doctors recommend, and he’s gone from walking with a walker to only a cane.

“This class keeps him at that level,” Becky says, adding that Weldon started the class in 2015. “He comes home and says, ‘I’m the star of the class!’ but that’s not really true. We’ve just had such an excellent experience with this class.”

The NCH Parkinson’s Exercise Class is held at the NCH Outpatient Center for Physical Rehab, 3300 Kirchoff Road, Rolling Meadows. For more information, call (847) 618-3880.

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