PARK CITY — Parkinson’s disease is a progressive nervous system disorder affecting an individual's every movement. Experts say there is currently no cure, but staying active is one way to fight back.
Sixty-year-old Mike Jorgensen is a loyal Ohio State fan and a former elementary school teacher in Park City. “I really liked the fact that the kids were just really curious," he said.
However, today he is the one doing the learning as he adjusts to life with Parkinson’s disease. He was diagnosed with the illness when he was 53 years old, and slowly started losing his ability to move.
It’s been a huge adjustment for both he and his wife, Sue Jorgensen. “Well, it is overwhelming somedays,” she said.
Simple things like planning a meal or getting dressed takes time. “Then 20 minutes later you get to sit down to eat the dinner,” Sue Jorgensen said.
“Most people don’t take 20 minutes to put on their socks,” Mike Jorgensen said. “It takes forever to do anything.”
It also takes a lot of patience. “I hate the fact that I can’t move the way I used to,” he said.
Intermountain Healthcare's Allison Merrell, an occupational therapist at Park City Hospital, said Parkinson's disease is a nervous system disorder that affects movement. “You may see Parkinson’s patients with issues with tremors or rigidity and stiffness, slowness of movement, or shakiness," she described.
Mike Jorgensen recently enrolled in a physical therapy program at Park City Hospital called LSVT Big, or Lee Silverman Voice Therapy Big. The class is designed to amplify a patients’ movement to gain a sense of normalcy again.
“So we're trying to create big movement to counteract what the brain's telling them to do, which is to move slower and move smaller,” Merrell said.
Merrell said staying active is the best way to fight the disease and will hopefully prevent falling. “The repetition in the thousands of movements that we do together is creating new habits in the brain,” she said.
“Walking is extremely hard," Mike Jorgensen described. He said the LSVT program has made a difference.
“Oh, it’s not helped me a little; it’s helped me a lot,” he said, especially getting around at home.
When Sue Jorgensen helps her husband get down stairs she reminds him to practice what he has learned by taking big steps.
While the disease has changed a lot of his life, it hasn’t robbed Mike Jorgensen of his sense of humor. “One of the joys of Parkinson’s is you get to move very rapidly,” he joked.
The LSVT classes are offered as an intensive program four times a week for four weeks. The constant repetition is designed to recalibrate the brain. Utah Valley and McKay Dee Hospital also offer the program.