JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute receives grant to support ParkinSINGS choir

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The Parkinson’s Foundation has awarded a grant to Hackensack Meridian JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute to support the ParkinSINGS choir and its work with Parkinson’s patients.

The Parkinson’s Foundation Community Grant Review Committee was impressed with the ParkinSINGS proposal and wrote that Parkinson’s Foundation donors would be proud to support the work, according to information provided by Hackensack Meridian Health.

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The ParkinSINGS Choir is comprised of people with Parkinson’s disease who sing under the direction of Alyson Chananie, a speech language pathologist, and musical director and pianist Frank Saverino. Studies have shown that singing programs have the potential to increase vocal loudness and improve respiratory muscle strength in people with the disease, according to the statement.

The choir met in person, but has been meeting virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Roger P. Rossi, D.O., medical director of the Parkinson’s Disease Program at JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute, thanked the Parkinson’s Foundation for enabling the choir to continue its important work for a second year with the $18,000 grant. The Parkinson’s Foundation provided funding for the choir’s first year as well.

Dr. Rossi said singing can help people with Parkinson’s disease improve movement and coordination, improve lung capacity, and lower stress and anxiety, according to the statement.

“ParkinSINGS is extremely helpful to our patients and is one of the programs that improves our patients’ quality of life,” Dr. Rossi said in the statement. Dr. Rossi is board certified in physical medicine and rehabilitation as well as sports medicine.

Choir members have said they recognize the value of exercising their lungs and vocal chords and also enjoy the camaraderie of coming together with others also living with Parkinson’s disease.

Sara Cuccurullo, M.D., medical director of JFK Johnson Rehabilitation Institute, said in the statement that each Parkinson’s disease patient is assessed and given a comprehensive program that may address swallowing, speech, diet and other aspects of Parkinson’s disease, according to the statement. The choir is one of several programs that JFK Johnson offers to people with Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders.

“We want every person with Parkinson’s disease to live the best life possible,” Dr. Cuccurullo said in the statement. “We’re thankful for the Parkinson’s Foundation for supporting our choir. Patients really enjoy the program and benefit from singing.”

Janice P. Dibling MS,CCC/SLP, manager of Acute and Inpatient Rehabilitation Speech Pathology, said the choir is valuable for patients, according to the statement.

“The choir has proven to be a creative and therapeutic outlet for individuals with Parkinson’s disease,” Dibling said in the statement. “Singing together has promoted social interaction, encouraged self-expression and enhanced quality of life.”

Through support of the Parkinson’s Foundation, ParkinSINGS is free and open to all community members. For more information, call the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology at 732-321-7063.

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