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Pushing Back Against Parkinson’s

By Matthew Solomon

Pushing Back Against Parkinson’sFive years ago, Nancy Rubin moved to Aviva – A Campus for Senior Life. Nancy who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease came to Aviva with a mission to keep doing the things she loved to do. Her goal matched up perfectly with the dedicated work of the Aviva Physical Rehabilitation team and she was paired with therapist, Joyce Hegeman.

In honor of National Parkinson’s Awareness month, we sat down with the pair to discuss living with Parkinson’s.

Q: Nancy, as someone living with Parkinson’s why, is Aviva so important?
N: My goal is to push the limits of what I can do. When I first moved to Aviva, that meant wanting to keep doing everything on my own even if it was provided. So, every day I handled my laundry, cleaned my apartment, took the trash down to the trash room, all while exercising 7 days a week and going to therapy.

While that was my goal when I moved in, the therapy team quickly helped me realize that these activities were draining my energy which meant I was missing out on doing the things I loved or really wanted to try. Living at Aviva has given me the opportunity to put aside the unnecessary daily tasks and focus on my health and doing whatever I want to do. I can do that because I know I am in a safe environment with people who care for me deeply and who want to see me succeed.

Q: Joyce, what are some things you focus on while working with residents like Nancy?
J: The biggest problem associated with Nancy Parkinson’s is shuffling gate. By that, I mean everyday patients find their movements and their world decrease a bit. They take smaller shuffling steps, have challenges to make big movements and to interact with their environment, and the feel increasingly locked into their bodies. When Nancy and I work together we are working to make all of her movements bigger. Bigger actions help maintain mobility.

Another important aspect of our work together has been addressing specific actions that Nancy knows she not only struggles with but also that she needs. For example, Nancy loves going to the Sarasota Symphony and we want her to be able to do that without any hesitation. So, to help we worked on balance while getting up from a chair and getting in and out of a car safely. By doing this, we are really accomplishing two goals at once. First, her mobility and balance are improving and second, we are keeping her motivated. Nancy knows that every exercise we do is so she can go out and continue to do what she loves.

Q: What are some tips that you would encourage other Parkinson’s patients to try?
N: One of the biggest things I had to learn was to prioritize. The days that I felt tired and couldn’t go to a program or couldn’t do a certain thing around the apartment were the days that I tended to beat myself up. The team, especially Joyce, helped me realize that I wasn’t prioritizing activities that were really for me. When you have a disease like Parkinson’s you need to prioritize things you enjoy and let other people help you with the small things.

J: Make sure you have a strong support network for yourself. One of the great things about a community like Aviva is we have time to get to know our residents. I may not be able to be here 24 hours a day but I know Nancy on a personal and health level. If I see her and she looks tired or uncomfortable, I can immediately tell that something isn’t right. Sometimes I may notice something that she didn’t because I have seen how her body works and we can address it.

Q: Finally, Nancy what is the key to your success?
N: I think what I am so proud of, is my ability to stay determined but realistic. It didn’t happen overnight though. Being realistic about what I can and can’t do has completely changed not only my health but my overall emotional wellbeing. It is so easy to feel like you are defective when you have a disease like this and because of that everything you can’t do feels like the end of the world. Thankfully, the people I love including the staff here at Aviva, have helped me realize that I am making the absolute best out of what I realistically can do. This means I am still going to the symphony or shopping or going on vacation. The only change is that I am doing it my way!

Aviva- A Campus for Senior Life is more than just a community, it is a lifestyle. As Sarasota’s premier senior rental community, we want to invite you to experience the possibilities! Visit or call 941-225-8369 to schedule a tour.

1951 N. Honore Ave. | Sarasota, FL 34235
941.225.8369 |


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