We all want to be heard and understood, but about 90 percent of people with Parkinson’s disease are at risk of developing a weak voice. 

Through a class called “Raise Your Voice” at Aurora BayCare Medical Center, Parkinson’s patients are letting their voices be heard. 

Joe Bethel remembers the exact moment he first noticed something was going on with his speech, more than a decade ago. 

“I was on a fishing trip with some very good friends in Canada,” Bethel recalled. “I was telling the guy where he could take the boat and he said, ‘What? What? You have to speak louder.’ That was the start of it.” 

Bethel didn’t know it at the time, but he was experiencing one of the classic early symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. 

“That’s part of the disease process as well,” explained Karen Floriaano-Heimerl, a speech-language pathologist at Aurora BayCare. “They don’t recognize that they’re not speaking as loudly.” 

Heimerl says Bethel is among the 90 percent of Parkinson’s patients at risk of developing a weak voice.

“Kinda hard getting along if you’re in a 10-foot fishing boat and the guys sitting in the front can’t hear you,” added Bethel. 

That’s where Aurora BayCare’s “Raise Your Voice” class comes in. 

“We really just want to help the person with Parkinson’s be able to be heard and understood in their daily communication,” said Heimerl. 

Through vocal techniques and structured exercises, Heimerl guides patients in the process of re-calibrating their brain, so to speak. 

“You have to be more disciplined than I am sometimes,” explained Bethel. “You have to keep working at it every day, you have to realize that you have to push harder than you thought you did.” 

Until the act of “raising your voice” becomes second nature 

“It becomes a constant thought process,” said Bethel. 

That thought process is something Parkinson’s patients like Bethel will need to continue working on for the rest of their lives. 

“There’s no cure, {for Parkinson’s}  it’s lifelong,” explained Heimerl. “We want them to participate in the class as long as they’re able.” 

As for Bethel, he has one very special motivation to continue attending the “Raise Your Voice” classes. 

“I’ve got a granddaughter that, in June, will be celebrating her graduation from high school,” Bethel beamed, “and you want to be able to talk to people you want to be understood.” 

If you’d like more information, go to aurorabaycare.com or use their LiveWell app. You can always just give them a call too: 1-866-938-0035 or email: healthwatch@aurorabaycare.com