When Tim Taylor’s grandkids tell him to “take big steps,” they’re not asking him to hurry.
Instead, they’re helping their “Pepo” practice LSVT BIG. The innovative exercise program helps Parkinson’s disease patients stay active by addressing problems with walking speed, balance and trunk rotation.
The 65-year-old practicing Jackson architect was diagnosed with the movement disorder six years ago. At the time, he was somewhat oblivious to symptoms such as unusual arm movements and difficulty walking.
“I was bumping into people all the time, and I thought they were bumping into me,” he said. “And I would fall, but I thought it was just balance problems.”
At the insistence of his wife, Ingrid, he went for a physical and asked his doctor if he might have Parkinson’s. “The doctor asked a few questions, ‘Are you writing smaller, walking funny? Then he said, ‘You have Parkinson’s.’”
A neurologist confirmed the diagnosis, and Taylor began taking a Parkinson’s medication. He had no trouble continuing the private design business he’d begun in 1993, but navigating construction sites was sometimes a challenge.
One of his customers is physical therapist Karen Klein. And when they met for a consultation in February, she noticed his unsteadiness while walking in the woods.
“I was grabbing his arm because I was afraid he was going to fall,” she said. “He told me he had Parkinson’s, and I said I think we can help you if you come see us for therapy.”
Klein is among 13 therapists at Methodist Outpatient Therapy in Flowood and Ridgeland who are trained to lead LSVT BIG. With her encouragement, Taylor decided the program was a good idea to keep him safer on job sites.
The program is intense. Therapy is four times a week for four weeks, plus homework. And it’s obvious why it’s called BIG. Participants amplify every exercise, swinging their arms wide and taking giant steps.
“When you exercise, you can feel it. You feel tired in the afternoon,” Taylor said.
“I think he found a few muscles he forget he had,” Klein said. “All the time I was trying to keep it challenging because I know how competitive he is. To keep it fun for him, I had to be creative. Everybody thinks of him as a big kid. He plays in the pool and golfs with his grandkids.”
The aim of the exercises is to combat movement restrictions associated with Parkinson’s, such as a shuffling gait, slow movements, loss of trunk rotation, a rounded posture and muscle rigidity.
Taylor said the BIG program “improved everything,” and friends and family immediately noticed the change. He also showed progress on the performance outcome measures Klein kept as an objective record of his improvement.
Taylor also plans to start LSVT LOUD. It’s the speech therapy component of the program and helps Parkinson’s patients overcome voice and swallowing problems.
Taylor’s issue is his voice is now softer and harder to hear. It’s a problem many Parkinson’s patients don’t even realize.
“Their perception of their voice is not what ours is, so they can’t tell their voice is low,” said Methodist speech therapist Kimberly Boyd. “We do voice recordings during their initial evaluation and throughout their therapy. After a couple of weeks, I’ll have them listen and they are absolutely amazed. They can’t believe how much they’ve improved in such a short time.”
Graduates of LSVT BIG and LOUD are encouraged to continue their exercises twice a week. “It’s like maintenance on your car, you have to keep your body up,” Klein said. “And Tim knows the benefit of doing it.”
Indeed, on a recent vacation trip with his grandkids, “I did everything they did,” Taylor said.
LSVT BIG and LOUD are therapies designed to help people with Parkinson’s overcome symptoms commonly associated with the neurological disease. BIG addresses impairments such as a shuffling gait, slow movement, loss of trunk rotation, postural changes and muscle rigidity, while LOUD combats speech and swallowing problems. Methodist Outpatient Therapy has 13 physical and occupational therapists trained in LSVT BIG and 4 speech therapists in LSVT LOUD. For more information, call its Flowood clinic at 601-936-8889 and its Ridgeland Clinic at 601-984-8700.