Erwin Kainer sees a light at the end of his tunnel.
Erwin’s trouble started three years ago. “I was having problems walking, bumping into walls and furniture. And it was hard to remember things,” he says. “I had several bad years.”
His first diagnosis was complications of aging and mild cognitive impairment.
“I spent three years on a gradual downward slope in my abilities,” Erwin says. “I was losing confidence, getting frustrated; I wasn’t sure what was going on.”
Then a neurologist diagnosed Parkinson’s. “I was glad, because now I could work on something,” Erwin says. “Since then, things have gotten positive for me.”
The doctor ordered medication and referred Erwin to LSVT BIG® and LSVT LOUD® speech, physical and occupational therapies for people in all stages of Parkinson's. LSVT BIG® improves mobility and movement used in everyday function through physical and/or occupational therapy. LSVT LOUD® improves communication in daily living through speech therapy. Erwin’s medical team at Veterans Affairs (the VA) referred him to Northfield Hospital + Clinics’ Rehabilitation Services for treatment close to home.
Erwin had four weeks of BIG physical therapy, then four weeks of LOUD speech therapy. “They tailored the program for my problems at the moment,” Erwin says. “They told me, ‘What you’ve got, you can improve. We’ll give you some positive things to work on.’”
“The first week of BIG, we just did motion and stretching. Then I realized we were reversing the direction of my condition,” he says. “Repetition and exaggerated movements got me back to where I felt more comfortable” with balance and walking, plus cognitive skills like planning and thinking ahead. “And LOUD gives me confidence that I can express myself well.”
“It doesn’t feel like hard work,” Erwin adds. “After what I went through for three years, this is a blessing. It helped me immediately, and has given me a totally different attitude.”
The therapy program also helps Erwin address other health challenges. Hearing loss kept him out of conversations: “As it got harder to hear, I was pulling back,” he says. “I blamed people for not talking loud enough. Now I’m willing to admit that it’s my hearing that’s the problem.”
Erwin realizes the medications are helping, and he’s grateful for the BIG and LOUD program.
His biggest goal? “Having confidence and a light at the end of the tunnel was a big priority for me. This has given me a new outlook.”
His family sees a positive change, too. “My wife Marie noticed I’m a lot calmer, more sociable,” he says. “She sees that I joke around more, and I’m willing to do things I haven’t before.”
His grown children in Minnetonka, Chicago and New York see improvements too, and are very supportive of the therapy. “They know me a whole lot better than I realized, I guess.”
Physical therapist Maria Bohl, DPT “is fantastic, moving right along with me in these big swooping movements,” Erwin says. Speech therapist Heather Scott, CCC-SLP “is really great, helping me improve my speech quality. This has just been a totally positive experience for me.”
Erwin may do more BIG and LOUD with treatment tailored to his needs at the time. “I may be back several times for tune ups or new work, whatever is required. There’s a lot we can do. We’ll see where it takes us.”
His advice? “If you’re frustrated, get whatever help you can find. We’re very fortunate in Northfield to have a lot of resources. Take advantage of everything you can.”
“I feel blessed to be part of this program. It’s been extremely helpful for me.”