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Rehabilitation for Parkinson’s Disease

NYU Langone’s Rusk Rehabilitation has a long history of treating people with Parkinson's disease. The professionals in our Parkinson’s disease rehabilitation program have specialized training that allows them to provide the medical, nursing, and therapeutic care people with the condition need. The goal is to maximize a person’s ability to function and to maintain quality of life.

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At Rusk Rehabilitation, rehabilitation doctors, called physiatrists, specialize in treating people with Parkinson’s disease. Physiatrists evaluate the medical needs and treatment goals of people with Parkinson’s disease, as well as the needs and concerns of their families. The physiatrist and rehabilitation team then create a customized treatment plan to help each person achieve the best possible outcome.

Inpatient Rehabilitation

Rusk Rehabilitation offers specialized inpatient services for people with Parkinson’s disease. Unlike an acute care hospital, where most treatment and monitoring is provided at the bedside, people in the inpatient program at Rusk Rehabilitation actively participate in daily treatment sessions.

The length of an inpatient stay varies depending on a person’s medical and rehabilitation needs. Staff members estimate the length of stay before admission and adjust this if necessary.

People with Parkinson’s disease and their family members work with an experienced team, which may include nurses, social workers, occupational and physical therapists, speech–language pathologists, psychologists, nutritionists, and other rehabilitation experts.

Occupational Therapy Services

Inpatient occupational therapy helps people return to their daily activities, such as working, grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, and caring for a family member or pet. The goal is to help a person with Parkinson’s disease function as independently as possible.

To determine which skills a person needs to work on, an occupational therapist uses a process called remediation and compensation. He or she first analyzes the physical, cognitive, perceptual, and visual tasks needed to perform an activity and determines how well a person is functioning in each of those areas.

The therapist then teaches the person the skills needed to accomplish a particular task safely. When appropriate, the therapist also offers guidance on how to use equipment, such as canes, walkers, and wheelchairs.

Outpatient Rehabilitation

Rusk Rehabilitation also offers outpatient programs designed to help people with Parkinson’s disease progress toward their rehabilitation goals. In these programs, a person with Parkinson’s disease works with a therapist to improve strength, coordination, balance, endurance, and the ability to perform activities of daily living.

Staying active is an essential part of treatment for Parkinson’s disease. Studies show that exercise and physical therapy may improve some of the motor symptoms associated with the condition.

The team at NYU Langone works with you to create an exercise program tailored to your needs. Our experts also partner with the Jewish Community Center of Manhattan to provide a variety of fitness classes for people with Parkinson’s disease.

Speech–Language Pathology Services

Parkinson’s disease can affect many different aspects of communication, including the ability to remember certain words, the way the voice sounds and how loud it is, and facial expressions. The effect of Parkinson’s disease on a person’s communication skills can be slight or significant, depending on how the disease progresses.

For some people, changes in speech and voice may be the first signs of Parkinson’s disease. Others may not be noticeably affected until they’ve had the condition for years. As Parkinson’s disease progresses, it can affect a person’s ability to engage in conversation.

A speech–language pathologist evaluates and analyzes these aspects of communication and their impact on a person’s social interactions and quality of life.

For people who are receiving inpatient rehabilitation, Rusk Rehabilitation offers a speech–language program that focuses on detecting and evaluating a speech disorder known as hypokinetic dysarthria, a common problem in people with Parkinson’s disease. This condition impairs a person’s ability to create the movements of the mouth and vocal cords needed to produce speech. Symptoms include difficulty articulating clearly, a hoarse or harsh sounding voice, and rapid bursts of speech.

Other problems, such as low volume, poor differentiation of the words, and rushed speech, are also treated during speech therapy.

The program also educates people with Parkinson’s disease and their caregivers and partners about hypokinetic dysarthria. Specialists teach people strategies for improving speech and maintaining the ability to speak clearly and be understood.

The initial speech–language treatment regimen is fairly intense and lasts approximately two months for most people. It often begins while a person is completing an inpatient stay at Rusk Rehabilitation and continues with a home care or private speech–language pathologist after the person returns home. 

Some people may choose to complete their treatment at Rusk Rehabilitation through an outpatient program. Refresher courses and periodic reevaluation of a person’s ability to communicate effectively are integral parts of the speech–language pathology program.

Rusk Rehabilitation also offers people with Parkinson’s disease the ability to practice the techniques they’ve learned in a group of peers, which meets regularly at an NYU Langone facility.

Community Reintegration

Rusk Rehabilitation offers a community reintegration program for people with Parkinson’s disease. This helps them relearn the skills that enable them to participate fully in activities at home and work, and in recreational settings.

During reintegration, various experts—such as physical and occupational therapists, social workers, and psychologists—work together to help each person with Parkinson’s disease achieve his or her goals.

To maximize each person’s independence and safety in the community, the therapists and professionals at Rusk Rehabilitation may offer input on strategies to help a person function at home and at work, as well as in recreational environments. For example, our specialists may recommend assistive devices, such as a cane or walker, or they may suggest modifications, such as adding a handrail on stairways at home to improve accessibility.

Our Research and Education in Parkinson’s Disease

Learn more about our research and professional education opportunities.