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Saturday, March 25, 2017

Therapy student develops Parkinson disease program

By Patricia Ann Speelman -
March 25, 2017

Nory Monnier, left, of Sidney, boxes with occupational therapy doctoral student Erica Boerger, of Fort Loramie, at the Sidney-Shelby County YMCA, recently.

SIDNEY — Ninety-one-year-old Norris “Nory” Monnier, of Sidney, straps on boxing gloves and gets ready to meet his opponent.

He doesn’t have dreams of becoming the next Rocky Balboa, but his goals aren’t small. He hopes for stability, balance and a lessening of the effects of Parkinson’s disease.
His opponent knows that by boxing with her, Monnier has a chance of reaching those goals. His opponent is Erica Boerger, of Fort Loramie.
She’s a doctoral student in occupational therapy at Huntington University in Fort Wayne, Indiana. A requirement for her degree was a residency. So Boerger designed a Parkinson therapy program that she has been leading at the Sidney-Shelby County YMCA four days a week since January.
“It’s wildly successful,” said YMCA Operations Director David O’Leary.
Boerger met with YMCA officials for more than a year to get the project in place, but it was her university teachers who first interested Boerger in developing a workout program for Parkinson patients.
“Exercise is awesome for everyone. I saw benefits of exercise for Parkinson disease. It’s amazing how much exercise helps people with Parkinson disease,” she said.
Boerger became certified in Rock Steady, a boxing-based plan for patients, and has built her 15-week program around that. The 50-minute classes, which will meet through April 14, have been offered free of charge to Y members and nonmembers, twice a day, four days a week. Boerger assessed the participants on the first day they attended and then again eight weeks later. The final assessment will come when the project ends.
Participant Bob Schroerlucke, of Sidney, appreciates the camaraderie that has formed among class members.
“Everybody tries to encourage each other. We all know what we’re fighting,” he said. In addition to taking Boerger’s class, he sits on an advisory board convened by the YMCA to evaluate the project.
Monnier is one of two participants who meet with Boerger for private training.
“I’ve been exercising since I was a year old,” the nonagenarian said recently. A Russia native, Nory “walked everywhere,” according to his son, Dave, of Sidney. Nory used to work for Francis Manufacturing, overseeing the furnace area.
“Year round it was 120 degrees in there. Maybe that helped his stamina,” Dave said. When he wasn’t working, Nory was coaching for his beloved Russia schools. He was recognized about five years ago by the Ohio High School Athletic Association as Ohio’s Top Sports Fan. He’s also a big Notre Dame and Cincinnati Reds fan. A driven volunteer, he served as Russia’s assistant mayor and a fire department officer and oversaw the annual church picnic.
“I belonged to everything in Russia except St. Ann’s Sodality,” he joked.
“Everyone who knows him, knows he has a sense of humor,” David noted.
“I was 10th in my class. There were nine students in my class,” Nory said, with a laugh.
The older Monnier grew up on a farm with no electricity or running water. Horses pulled the farm machinery.
“You’d put a glass of water next to the bed and wake up the next morning and it was frozen,” he remembered. But he can’t remember a time when he didn’t exercise. When he was raising his own family, he would get home from work and do push-ups with his children on his back. Even now, he pops in a tape and completes an exercise routine every day.
Boerger’s is not the first Parkinson program he has done. He completed the Big and Loud program at the Versailles Health Care Center. It was run by Gina Boerger — no relation to Erica — who has been Erica’s mentor.
“She makes me work hard,” he said of Erica. Besides boxing, Nory likes using the stationary bikes.
Schroerlucke has found that the combination of strength and flexibility exercises with those for fine motor skills has worked well. He had completed a different Parkinson therapy at Wilson Health, but it lasted just a month.
“This you can do indefinitely,” he noted. “I know that all the people are appreciative of the Y and Wilson for putting (this program) on. There was nothing like this. It’s making a difference in the lives of the people who participated.”
The project has been under the watchful eye of Zach Monnin, director of therapy services at Wilson Health. Wilson and the YMCA will partner to keep a Parkinson program going at the Y after Boerger leaves. It will be somewhat different from Rock Steady.
“The YMCA will have two trainers who have been certified in Delay the Disease,” Monnin said. Wilson will provide a therapist. Participants will be able to choose a morning or afternoon class that will meet Tuesdays and Thursdays instead of four days a week. Patients’ partners and spouses will also be encouraged to join the sessions. Private training, such as Nory has had, will not be available.
“You don’t need to be referred (by a physician to participate), but you have to have a Parkinson’s diagnosis and medical clearance from a physician,” Monnin said. The 50-minute classes will begin April 18 and will comprise interval training, including cardio exercises, core exercises, flexibility and fine motor or brain work.
According to O’Leary, the program will be open to members and nonmembers, but it will not be free. Four-week sessions will cost $10 for members, $40 for nonmembers.
Until then, Nory, Schroerlucke and their classmates will continue with Boerger’s mix of strength training and agility work.
“I try to do something different each day,” she said. She incorporates punching bags, ladders, wall squats and jogging.
“When you have Parkinson’s disease, communication between the brain and muscles breaks down, so exercises are modeled to keep the connections active. You have to connect exercises with cognative thought at the same time,” Schroerlucke said.
“We’re working toward jumping jacks and jump rope,” Boerger added. Her assessments measure how far her students have come.
“How do we show progress? Standing up from a chair without using your hands. There was one lady who said she’d been through all the Parkinson programs (but she couldn’t get up from a chair). We did (in and out of the chair) over and over. She did 11. She said, ‘I could cry. I’m so happy.’ That’s rewarding. A lot of them say they’re more flexible,” Boerger said.
Nory, who was diagnosed with Parkinson disease in 2007, also has made progress. His son thinks the Rock Steady workouts have helped Nory to be able to use a walker. Nory also has enjoyed the social aspect of going to the Y for training. When asked if he planned to continue in Parkinson-based programs, he was quick to respond that he would — for awhile.
“I’ll try for 10 more years,” he said with a twinkle in his 91-year-old eyes.

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