Heather J. Cianci, PT, MS, GCS, a geriatric clinical specialist and founding therapist at the Dan Aaron Parkinson’s Rehabilitation Center, Good Shepherd Penn Partners at PAH, is serving as a faculty member for the Parkinson Disease Foundation’s (PDF®) free course, “Parkinson’s Disease: A Practical Approach to Evaluation and Treatment for the Physical Therapist."
The PDF® course is designed by expert physical therapists in the field of Parkinson’s to help other physical therapists provide better care for the nearly one million people in the US living with Parkinson’s. Taped in front of a live audience on April 20, in New York, NY, at the Langone Medical Center, the course is now available for free on the PDF® website. Physical therapists can view the course over the next year at their convenience and receive continuing education credits for completing it.
According to the PDF®, 5,000 people in the US are newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s every month. While no treatment can prevent or reverse Parkinson’s, research suggests that physical therapy can improve physical mobility and quality of life. People with Parkinson’s often experience difficulty walking, rising from chairs and moving in bed. Research has shown that physical therapy can help improve strength, fitness level, walking speed and balance, which leads to reduced disability and greater independence.
Physical therapists are an integral part of a Parkinson’s patient’s treatment management plan, helping them navigate the movement challenges that affect activities of daily life through engagement in exercise over the course of the disease. Through this new course, Heather, along with other professionals from the American Parkinson Disease Association and the American Physical Therapy Association, is teaching the latest evidence-based findings to practitioners around the country to help them provide the best care possible.
"Serving as a faculty member and presenter for the Parkinson Disease Foundation's educational series has allowed me to reach a much larger audience than I would be able to otherwise,” said Heather. I feel very strongly about the importance of getting the word out about the benefits of exercise and physical therapy for individuals with Parkinson's disease. Our Parkinson's Rehabilitation Center here at Pennsylvania is truly one of a kind. It is multidisciplinary group of amazing people. I'm so proud to be on this team.”
Heather has practiced physical therapy for 18 years, with the majority of those years dedicated to working with people with Parkinson’s disease. Her research includes movement strategies for bed mobility, falls and freezing of gait. She lectures at many local and national support groups and conferences and has authored educational manuals for the PDF® and chapters in books about rehabilitative strategies for individuals with Parkinson’s and frontotemporal lobe dementia.