HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- April is Parkinson's Awareness Month.
Up to 90% of people with Parkinson’s are likely to develop speech disorders. In addition, aspiration pneumonia, caused by swallowing difficulty, accounts for 70% of the mortality rate.
"Part of Parkinson's is loss of voice, due to the muscles in the throat, and the muscles just need exercise to work correctly," explained Kevin Horrocks, a Parkinson's patient who was diagnosed in 2018.
When Parkinson's patients go through the Speak Out program at Huntsville Hospital, they continue practicing their speech skills as part of a community called the Loud Crowd.
If you could hear them, you'd understand why.
"Parkinson's is a degenerative disease, so anything we can do to slow the progression of these skills, we do with intent," said speech pathologist Anne McKinley.
The Loud Crowd helps Parkinson's patients maintain the skills they've learned during physical therapy. They do exercises to warm up their voices, then they move on to numbers, words, sentences, and cognitive exercises.
"We work diligently to maintain their voices, their healthy swallow, and their cognition skills," McKinley said.
Working on these skills improves their time spent with family and friends, and thus, betters their quality of life.
"If I use the intent that they teach, I can speak and people can hear me!" Horrocks said.
Participation in The Loud Crowd, along with daily home practice and six-month re-evaluations, has been shown to help patients maintain their communication skills throughout the progression of Parkinson’s.
For more information about the Loud Crowd program or to schedule a speech evaluation, please call Anne McKinley, Speech Pathologist at (256) 513-8164.