Voces Unidas

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Voces Unidas is a singing group for people with Parkinson’s Disease and their caregivers. The program helps improve or maintain communication skills and voice strength. Claudia Martinez, Hispanic Outreach Coordinator for the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center, talks to Horizonte about the program.

José Cárdenas: Most people who have Parkinson's disease experience changes in voice and speech at some point during the course of their disease. In order to help improve patient's vocal abilities, the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center decided to start a singing group for Hispanics with the disease, and it's called Voces Unidas. United voices. We will talk to someone about the group, but first here is Voces Unidas at a rehearsal. ¶¶ [Music] ¶¶

José Cárdenas: Joining me now is Claudia Martinez, Hispanic outreach coordinator for the Muhammad Ali Parkinson center. Claudia, it's good to have you back on "Horizonte." Quickly remind our audience what the center does.

Claudia Martinez: Our center is basically the -- devoted to help the quality of life, people with Parkinson's disease and their family members.

José Cárdenas: Most of us have a sense for Parkinson's, the tremors that people have. And I think we'd be surprised to know it affects speech and voice.

Claudia Martinez: Most people associate it with tremors and problems with gait. But the same problems that affect muscles and producing stiffness, also affect the muscles that affect our vocal chords and that's why it will produce mumbling or slurred speech associated with the loss of facial expression will lead to communication problems. And then with feelings of frustration, depression and withdrawal that will lead to social isolation.

José Cárdenas: The manifestations of Parkinson's that we are familiar with, many are created with medications but as I understand it, they don't work as well with respect to the facial muscles you were talking about. Why is that?

Claudia Martinez: Well, Unfortunately, we don't know why. What has been said is that medication, Parkinson's medication don't have a good affect on voice problems, especially. But on the other hand, it's seen that pairing Parkinson's medication with therapy such as voice and music therapy has a positive impact, not only in voice and communication, but in the other, well-being and quality of life of people with this condition.

José Cárdenas: As I understand it, there's been a study that the results recently released?

Claudia Martinez: Yes, actually -- A recent study, data from the Parkinson's registry, collected from 2003 to 2006 looked at different effects of 13 therapies under ability and performance of daily life of people with Parkinson's disease. And upped the information for a period of time and the studies showed that music therapy had a very positive impact. Not only in communication and social support, but also in other areas like ability to move like ability, activities of daily life and emotional well-being knowledge.

José Cárdenas: I understand some of the that is the breathing, the exercises you do to be able to sing generally improve your ability to deal with Parkinson's throughout the body.

Claudia Martinez: That is true. The breathing exercises, vocal exercises will help the -- the production of your voice or how you project your voice. But also, it's been shown that regular music and rhythm are -- sessions help people not only with their voice, but also with other problems that they encounter in living with Parkinson's, and the ability or walking improvement. So that's why this music therapy has such an important impact in the people living with this condition.

José Cárdenas: Where did the idea for this group, Voces Unidas, come from?

Claudia Martinez: The fact is there are usually only two other voice groups for people living Parkinson's but none in Spanish. So two other ones. One on the west side of the valley and one on the east side. But knowing what positive impact it has on people living Parkinson's, we wanted to make sure that Hispanics living with the disease could have the possibility of participating in a similar group and getting the benefits from it. That's why last year we decided that we needed to start a singing group in Spanish for our families, for a Hispanic families. And with Parkinson's and found the right instructor. To conduct the class in Spanish and communicate and connect with the group on a cultural appropriate level. And we were able to start in the month of September.

José Cárdenas: We are almost out of town. I understand you have 22 people. Including caregivers and people suffering from Parkinson's.

Claudia Martinez: 27, actually.

José Cárdenas: And they've performed.

Claudia Martinez: Yes, they did. The first was at a holiday party in December and at the annual symposium where there was 200 in attendance. It was a great venue for them to perform.

José Cárdenas: And I understand you're looking for sponsors and so I assume they can find you on the internet and through other means.

Claudia Martinez: Sure, they can, or call us 602-406-2453. We want people interested in sponsors these important therapy group and to help us keep it alive.

José Cárdenas: Thank you for joining us.

Claudia Martinez: Thank you.

Claudia Martinez:Hispanic Outreach Coordinator, Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center;

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