Music provides path toward healing for some with Parkinson’s

The ParkinSings Choir had a show Wednesday night. It is a night to let loose and a night to bond – because Parkinson’s has a way of putting life on hold.

Matt Trapani and Nick Meidanis

Apr 20, 2023, 2:51 AM

Updated 451 days ago

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About 1 million people are living in the United States with Parkinson’s disease – an illness that can break down the body over time.
A group in New Jersey is fighting back using music.
The ParkinSings Choir had a show Wednesday night. It is a night to let loose and a night to bond – because Parkinson’s has a way of putting life on hold.
“It’s affected my life in so many ways. It is a struggle,” says Pat Dunstan, of ParkinSings Choir.
The body begins to break down and even talking takes work.
"If your voice starts to collapse within itself, you hear it, but nobody else can. So, it's very important to speak with intent in everything that you do,” says Barry Gould, who was diagnosed almost two years ago.
Singing can help and sometimes even improve speech.
"For Parkinson’s, exercise is medicine. So, doing things like singing, speech therapy and voice therapy - those are all really important,” says Aly Chananie, speech pathologist at JFK Johnson Rehab.
The group has been going for about four years with weekly practices. The theme for Wednesday is togetherness - with a little comedy mixed in.
Those with the illness say that everyone deals with it differently as the symptoms hit people differently. Something everyone at Wednesday’s event could relate to.
"I fell down last night. Or I wanted to say a word and the word wouldn't come out. I was calling the stove the fridge. And these people understand. I don't feel embarrassed,” Dunstan says.
She used to be a lawyer. She says since her diagnosis almost 10 years ago, this has helped her confidence. She says it forces her to appreciate moments like this.
"I’m doing things I’ve never even dreamed of. I'm singing here in a concert with people. I’m a shower singer. I can't believe I'm out of the shower singing,” says Dunstan.
The group is run out of JFK Johnson Rehab. Parkinson's has no cure. The focus is to manage symptoms with medicine and therapies.


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