OptimisPT Practice Spotlight: STARS Parkinson’s Rehab Program

By: Cheryl “Chae” Dimapasoc Canon, PT, DPT;  OptimisPT Director of Implementation and Compliance

We are honored to highlight one of our OptimisPT Members in our first ever Practice Spotlight during National PT Month!  

Melanie Lomaglio, PT, DPT, MSC., NCS, is co-owner of STARS Rehab in St. Augustine, FL. and specializes in treating people with Parkinson’s Disease (PD).  She is LSVT BIG and PWR! (Parkinson’s Wellness Recovery) certified, two well known targeted therapy programs for people with PD.  Melanie was fortunate to train under Dr. Becky Farley, founder of Parkinson’s Wellness Recovery.  She completed the PWR! Moves certification courses, then trained to become a PWR! Moves instructor.

Melanie worked in academia for 12 years as an assistant professor, and developed a community-based exercise class and support group for individuals living with PD.  Over those 12 years she developed relationships with the community and other groups that helped her develop a free-standing Parkinson’s Health Center that provides Physical and Speech therapy and community group classes.  

STARS PD Rehab Program was the recipient of a $20,000 grant from the PD Foundation that has allowed them to expand their wellness programs and offer new, year-round classes FREE for people living with Parkinson’s disease in their brand-new Parkinson’s gym, and for those that wish to stay at home, virtually through online zoom sessions.  The “Park Avenue Project 2020-2021” serves as an extension of one-on-one therapy by moving people into on-going, high quality, multi-leveled group wellness classes designed and led by Melanie as well as two other PTs and a SLP.  The new facility was opened right as COVID hit.  While this was likely a scary situation, it also turned out to be a blessing; the PD Wellness center allowed patients to come in for 1:1 private sessions and safely participate in treatment, completely separate from their other ortho facility. 

The wellness program includes:

  • PWR! Moves
  • Yoga
  • LOUD CROWD
  • Sing Out LOUD
  • Punch Out Parkinson’s

All have research to support their effectiveness in patients with PD and are offered at three different ability levels; a critical component of a wellness program to ensure people at various stages of the disease are appropriately challenged.  The only class that is not covered by the grant is the Punch Out Non-Contact Boxing Program; all others are free to the PD community in-person or via Zoom.

STARS also features an unusual rehab specialist: Harley, the 3-year old facility dog that is also trained in many of the PWR moves.  As the patient performs their PWR! Up, Rock, Twist and Step to help with anti-gravity extension, weight shifting, axial mobility and movement transitions, Harley helps to facilitate the movement alongside the patient, while making it a fun learning experience.  For patients with balance disorders, Harley gently plays “tug” to assist with perturbation training.

“One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is watching patients connect.  Especially during this COVID pandemic, many patients don’t have the ability to interact with others, but last week I witnessed patients talking about setting up a socially distanced golf outing.  We used to try to force patients with PD to socialize with others that have similar challenges, but now it happens organically and it’s so wonderful to see.”

Melanie’s innovative approach also translates into savings within the clinic.  Instead of spending almost $20,000 on an overhead track system, she instead installed a zipline in the facility for 25 feet to provide a fall free environment while challenging balance in people living with PD and other neuro challenges.  Telehealth has also been implemented by both PT and SLP during the COVID pandemic as well as for patients that live long distances. “Many patients, however, love coming to see Harley and the staff so much that they prefer to travel the long distance instead of taking advantage of telehealth.”

Thanks to Melanie, the content in OptimisPT has grown considerably to include specific measures that have been shown to be significant for patients with PD.  We are thankful for her expertise and contribution to grow the content within the EMR.  We congratulate her and her success in helping patients with PD to improve their function and quality of life.

**Dr. Lomaglio’s research has focused on the effects of community group exercise for persons with Parkinson’s disease. She has presented her research at both the national (APTA Combined Sections Meeting 2005 and 2014, and ACRM 2013) and international levels (5th World Stroke Congress, 2004 and the 15th World Physical Therapy Congress, 2007) and has published in the journal Gait and Posture (2005;22:126-131) Cerebrovascular Diseases (2008;26:584-591), and Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise (2009;41:1353-1360).

STARS Parkinson’s Rehab: https://starsrehab.org/parkinsons-rehab/

Canine Companions service dogs helping their humans through pandemic. https://www.news4jax.com/news/morning-show/2020/04/17/canine-companions-service-dogs-helping-their-humans-through-pandemic/

PWR!4Life Exercise4BrainChange®: Parkinson’s Researcher and PT Dr. Becky Farley interview: https://voiceaerobicsdvd.com/parkinsons-advocacy/pwr4life-exercise4brainchange-parkinsons-researcher-and-pt-dr-becky-farley-interview/

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