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Development and Evaluation of a Multi-Disciplinary Community-Based Program for People with Parkinson's Disease and Their Caregivers

Grant Winners

  • Mary Blackinton, Ed.D., HPD – College of Health Care Sciences
  • Martha Wichert, PT – Sanford Ziff Health Care Center
  • Tommie Boyd, Ph.D. – Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Lisa Kelledy, M.S. – Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Cynthia Rebholz, B.A. – Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences


  • Richard Davis – College of Health Care Sciences
  • Robert Oller – NSU Clinics
  • Honggang Yang – Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences


2004-2005 Faculty Research and Development Grant Award Winner.

Parkinson's Disease (PD) is a chronic, progressive movement disorder that affects 1 out of every 1000 people aged 65 and older, and 1 out of every 100 people 75 years and older. PD results in increased risks for falls, injuries, and hospitalizations, impacting the quality of life of the individual and entire family system. Research indicates that intensive exercise can increase strength, balance, mobility, and sense of well being in people with PD; but referral to therapy is often made only after functional decline. Depression is the most prevalent psychosocial issue in this population, yet it is rarely addressed using a family therapy approach. Currently, there are no interdisciplinary programs in the tri-county area that address both exercise and family therapy, and no studies have investigated this combination of services.

This proposal outlines the development of a community-based, interdisciplinary program for people with PD and their caregivers that combines a structured exercise program with family/caregiver counseling. A quasi-experimental research design will be used to compare the effects of an exercise only (control) group to one that receives exercise plus family counseling (experimental) group. Volunteer subjects from local support groups will be randomly assigned into control/experimental groups. All subjects will participate in a structured exercise program 3 times weekly for 10 weeks, while the experimental group and their caregivers will also participate in family counseling once per week for 10 weeks. The 5 dependent variables measure mobility, motor function, balance, quality of life, and relationship functioning. A repeated measures ANOVA will be used to measure the dependent variables at 4 points in time: pre-test, week 5, week 10, and 6 weeks post program.

If funded, this program will increase NSU's potential to become a Center of Excellence for the National Parkinson Foundation and enhance our ability to seek national research grants.

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