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Therapy improves quality of life for people with Parkinson’s disease

Therapy improves quality of life for people with Parkinson’s disease

When Carolyn Goodwin, a retired registered nurse, began to frequently stub her toe in 2005, she thought little of it and assumed she was just being careless. However, a few months later she began noticing that she wasn’t walking quite right, and she had lost her sense of smell. When she noticed a tremor in her right little finger, Goodwin began to worry these symptoms were a sign of something more serious.

Coupled with the knowledge that her grandfather had Parkinson’s disease later in his life, her symptoms caused Goodwin to worry that she, too, had developed the disease. She went to a physician in Bowling Green, Ky., where she was living at the time, and was sent to Louisville for further evaluation. Goodwin was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in April 2007.

According to the Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, nearly 1 million Americans are living with the disease and nearly 60,000 more are diagnosed each year. Parkinson’s is a degenerative neurological disorder that impairs movement, muscle control and balance. Typical symptoms include:

  • Tremors or shaking of the hands, arms, legs and face
  • Slowness of movement
  • Muscle rigidity
  • Difficulty with walking, balance and coordination
  • Speech problems
  • Difficulties with memory and thought processes

​Goodwin and her husband moved to Louisville soon after her diagnosis, and she began searching for successful treatment methods that would help slow the progression of her symptoms. She discovered the rehabilitation program at the Cressman Center for Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders at Norton Brownsboro Hospital. She began six weeks of speech-language therapy and an eight-week physical therapy program in March of this year.

“The team at Norton Brownsboro has been easy to work with, patient and understanding of my difficulties,” Goodwin said. “They gave me answers I can use in everyday life.”

For Goodwin, who also takes medication to treat her symptoms, including tremors and stiffness, the therapy has significantly improved her condition.

“It has made my typical movements better,” she said. “I can swing my arms when walking, my balance is better and my voice is louder.”

The therapy program at the Cressman Center specializes in movement disorders such as Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, essential tremor and dystonia. The multidisciplinary approach to treatment includes physical therapy, speech- language therapy and occupational therapy. The rehabilitation team also provides patients with consistent follow-up visits over time.

“We never want our patients to feel that they are done with therapy upon discharge,” said Liz Ulanowski, physical therapist. “We want our patients and their families to feel fully supported throughout their journey with Parkinson’s.”

Ulanowski and Anne Blandford, speech-language pathologist with the program, agree that therapy can improve patients’ awareness of physical changes caused by Parkinson’s, and improve their movement, communication ability, quality of life and overall safety.

Ulanowski recommends the rehabilitation team at the Cressman Center to all patients diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease.

“All patients, as well as their family members, can benefit from the education provided to better live their lives with this disease,” Ulanowski said.

Goodwin is now living a full and active life. She stays busy keeping up with four grandchildren, gardening, working on needlepoint and learning to play the piano — all activities that could be difficult, if not impossible, for some Parkinson’s patients.

“Parkinson’s caused me to be stiff and restricted my movements,” Goodwin said. “I’ve been very happy with my therapy outcomes.”

About the Cressman Center

The type of focused therapy Carolyn Goodwin receives is available thanks to a $5 million gift to the Norton Healthcare Foundation from retired Louisville physician Elizabeth Pahk Cressman, M.D., Ph.D. Her generosity helped establish the Cressman Center for Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders at Norton Brownsboro Hospital through Norton Neuroscience Institute. Dr. Cressman made the gift in memory of her husband, Frederick K. Cressman, M.D., who died in January 2010 at age 77 after a seven-year battle with Parkinson’s disease.

For people living with Parkinson’s disease and other neurological conditions, having world-class care and access to the latest therapies and treatments right here in Louisville makes a world of difference. As the philanthropic arm of the not-for-profit Norton Healthcare system, the Norton Healthcare Foundation helps ensure Louisville-area residents have access to the best care without having to leave their homes and support systems. Learn how you can support the foundation’s work at

About our experts

Anne Blandford and Liz Ulanowski see patients in the rehabilitation program at the Cressman Center for Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders, Norton Brownsboro Hospital, fifth floor, 4960 Norton Healthcare Blvd., Louisville, KY 40241; (502) 446-8520.


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