Health Check: Big and Loud program for Parkinson's patients

Bob Bennett gets around just fine these days.

"Before, I would walk bent over. The idea is to stand up straight," he said.

Parkinson's disease has taken its toll after 10 years.

Bennett never had tremors with his Parkinson's, but it did affect the way he walked, his handwriting and muscles in his face.

"Drooping around the mouth," he said.

Then this summer, he took advantage of the Big & Loud program offered by South County Hospital's VNS Home Health Services.

The loud portion is an intensive four-week program featuring exaggerated vocal exercises.

Bennett said it has made a remarkable difference. It's minimized the drooping around his mouth.

The big part of the program is all about physical and occupational therapy.

"I look at his dressing and bathing, and the way he was able to get himself dressed and (using) bigger movements made it easier for him to start his day and function," said Sheila Sweeney of South Coast Hospital.

Sweeney visited his Cranston home a few times a week to put him through occupational therapy exercises. Ray Carroll, his physical therapist, also made weekly visits.

"The desire of the program is to reset the gain and calibrate a patient with Parkinson's," Carroll said.

"The movements themselves are magnified. They're big, big, big, big. So if we see them, they don't look that difficult. But somebody with Parkinson's, the exaggeration of them can be a little challenging."

"Actually, when we first started with (Bennett), his movements were quite slow and he had a little bit of shifting with his legs," Sweeney said.

Bennett said before the program, he'd go out with his daughter and only last about four hours.

"Now, I can go 10 hours a day and nothing bothers me. It's that remarkable," he said.

The at-home visits lasted about a month. Bennett has to continue these daily exercises. He admits if he skips a day, he really feels it.