Singing Helps People Living With Parkinson’s Disease

The sound of song is reverberating across Coffs Harbour each Thursday as people with Parkinson’s Disease and their carers participate in a specialised singing program.

Led by Music Therapist Bonnie Nilsson, the ‘Parkinson’s Voice Program’ is funded by the Coffs Harbour Rotary Daybreak in a partnership between Parkinson’s NSW, the Younger Person’s Parkinson’s Support Group, University of Newcastle and the Mid North Coast Local Health District (MNCLHD) to improve the quality of life of participants.

Communication impairment is one of the most common symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease, significantly affecting quality of life. Singing shares many of the neural networks and structural mechanisms used during speech and, thus, has potential for therapeutic application to address speech disorders.

MNCLHD Parkinson’s Clinical Nurse Consultant Vince Carroll said up to 90 per cent of people living with Parkinson’s experience speech and communication disorders yet few seek help.

“The local Parkinson’s support group program aims to improve health outcomes such as vocal intensity, speech intelligibility and respiratory output,” he said.

“Singing in a group context also enables social connection, increases in conversation, and shared emotional states, which facilitate empathy, cohesion, and bonding.”

The next session will be held in the Lifehouse Church in Orlando Street, Coffs Harbour from 1pm to 2.30pm on Thursday, 12 March.

The session will include 30 minutes of high intensity music-based vocal exercises, a sing-a-long with everyone’s favourite songs, the chance to sing solo, and 30 minutes of social interaction and conversation practice over morning tea.

Parkinson’s Disease is a progressive neurological condition which affects the brain’s ability to control movement and may also be associated with other symptoms including mood, depression and anxiety. There is no cure.

For further information, contact Vince Carroll, Parkinson’s Clinical Nurse Consultant, Mid North Coast Local Health District on 6659 2300.