New CGH voice and movement group helps Parkinson's patients using 'big' moves

Parkinson's patient Mrs Yeo Jui Hoon, 84, undergoes a new Voice and Movement Group Therapy with (right) Senior Occupational Therapist Tan Xuan Hong at Changi General Hospital. -- ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG 
Parkinson's patient Mrs Yeo Jui Hoon, 84, undergoes a new Voice and Movement Group Therapy with (right) Senior Occupational Therapist Tan Xuan Hong at Changi General Hospital. -- ST PHOTO: SEAH KWANG PENG 

SINGAPORE - A new voice and movement group in Changi General Hospital (CGH) is helping Parkinson's patients speak louder and move better.

Started in April this year, four to six Parkinson's patients gather weekly to perform exaggerated actions while attempting to project their voice. Prompted by occupational and speech therapists, patients may sing while extending their bodies sideways or shout their names while stretching their bodies forward.

About 50 patients have gone through this therapy. While most are from CGH's inpatient group, it will be extended to outpatient clients in December.

The focus is on thinking "big" and "loud" as Parkinson's patients struggle with fine motor movements and a soft voice, said CGH senior speech therapist Betty Wong. Parkinson's patients may also suffer from hand tremors, slow movements, rigidity or be unstable in standing and sitting. Their voices also become softer as the disease progresses.

The CGH group is believed to be the first here to use these techniques - modified from a programme called LSVT big and LSVT loud which have proved effective in the West - intensively in a group setting.

"During the group therapy, patients are prompted to do big movements which help them achieve a better and more stable posture. This results in a better posture for voice projection," said Ms Wong. Caregivers are also advised to practice these big movements and voice techniques at home with patients if they want better results, she said.

Parkinson's disease is usually treated with medications. Some patients might have to go through neurosurgery. Generally, hospitals including CGH have individual speech and occupational therapy sessions for Parkinson's patients. But new voice and movement sessions should be seen as an add-on and not replacement for individual sessions, Ms Wong said.

The new group has already helped Mrs Yeo Jui Hoon, 84, who cheers up when singing with others. "Her voice is louder now," said caregiver Blessie Ragudu, 37.

Currently, an estimated 0.3 per cent of those aged 50 and over suffer from Parkinson's disease in Singapore. CGH saw 895 Parkinson's patients from May 2013 to April 2014, compared with 761 patients in the same period between 2011 to 2012. The problem is expected to grow more severe with an ageing population, said senior consultant for geriatric medicine, Dr Christopher Lien.