The stress test team

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As COVID-19 swept the nation, many retreated to their homes to wait for when it would blow over. Unfortunately, things are taking a bit longer than expected with healthcare workers dealing with the pandemic’s brunt. They need our help and volunteers have been stepping up to give them much-needed assistance. Tri-County Health Care’s medical staff have been in a tug of war match with this virus for nearly two years. Volunteers help them by taking over some of the support tasks so healthcare workers can focus on saving lives. This support is very apparent in the cardiac rehab department. For years, a team of dedicated volunteers has given up their personal time to assist providers and nurses stress test patients. This team is an essential component of cardiac rehab, where the heart is monitored during various exercises.

Chris Olson

Chris Olsen helps patients during a stress test.

Since her retirement, Chris has been a volunteer at Tri-County for 15 years. She has the delicate job of ensuring each patient is safe and taken to their appointment area. Much of the job is sitting with them and making them comfortable. Several patients coming for a stress test are scared, so her favorite part of the job is putting them at ease.

The test is broken up into three parts. In-between the second and third portions of the test, she prepares a small snack for the patient. This snack usually consists of toast and coffee, which helps enhance the last part of the test. Before the pandemic, volunteers would take the patient down to the cafeteria, but that is no longer possible.

“I truly love being there.” – Chris Olsen

Carol is a member of the stress test volunteer team.Carol Melcher

Carol has been helping behind the scenes for the better part of 13 years. Before being a volunteer in the cardiology department, she worked at Tri-County Health Care for 30 years. She started as a ward secretary and then moved on to records later in her career. Carol knows a thing or two about the hospital environment. She understands the value of good help and encourages others to explore volunteer opportunities at Tri-County Health Care.

“You get whatever you want to put into it.” – Carol Melcher

Darlene helps nurses and doctors stress test patients.

Darlene Matthes

Darlene has been volunteering for 16 years and was initially introduced to the volunteer program by her cousin, Lois Miller, the cardiac rehab manager. She has assisted in other areas but is especially fond of helping the stress test team. Darlene enjoys volunteering and knows the nursing staff really appreciates the extra help.

“Fun to know your helping out.” -Darlene Matthes


“Our volunteers help make stress tests less stressful for our patients and they make a big difference in our day. The entire process runs more smoothly because of these wonderful, caring ladies,” said Lois Miller. Appreciation for the team reverberates throughout the facility. It is clear the stress test volunteers have a genuine love for helping others.

A comprehensive approach to treating Parkinson’s

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As Parkinson’s Disease progresses, patients face losing their ability to walk, talk and complete their daily activities. There is no cure for the disease, but a proven therapy is here to help. Tri-County Health Care utilizes a comprehensive approach of certified therapists in physical, occupation and speech-language therapy when treating Parkinson’s. This approach, known as the Lee Silverman Voice Technique (LSVT), offers relief and treatment for patients with Parkinson’s.

Tri-County Health Care Treating Parkinson's Disease Rehab Physical Therapy Occupational Therapy Speech Therapy LSVT BIG LSVT LOUD

Parkinson’s Disease Awareness Month

April is Parkinson’s Awareness Month, making it a perfect time to explain the disease and its treatments. While it’s likely you’ve heard of the disease; it may not be well understood. The condition occurs when there is a loss of brain cells that produce dopamine. It usually presents itself in people over 60, and approximately 60,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed each year.

The four common symptoms include tremors, limb and trunk stiffness, bradykinesia (the slowing down of movement) and weak balance or coordination. Parkinson’s symptoms exacerbate over time and as they become worse, patients may start to have trouble with everyday tasks.

What is LSVT?

LSVT is an effective, evidence-based approach to treating Parkinson’s. Its programs have been scientifically and clinically proven to improve balance, walking and general movement and speech patterns of patients.

Through targeted and repetitive exercises, the therapy takes advantage of the brain’s ability to adapt and form new neural connections. It enables people to create new motor-skill and language memories and apply them to their real-world situations.

Get back to everyday activities – LSVT BIG

For people living with Parkinson’s or other neurological conditions, gestures and actions become smaller. They may find everyday activities like getting around or getting dressed become difficult.

LSVT BIG effectively trains improved movements for any activity. It improves walking, self-care and other tasks by helping patients “recalibrate” how they perceive their movements with what others see. Research has shown the program improves ratings on tests of motor functioning in people with Parkinson’s, including:

  • Faster walking with bigger steps
  • Improved balance
  • Increased trunk rotation
  • Improvements in activities of daily living such as bed mobility
  • Improved UPDRS Motor Score

LSVT BIG utilizes program-certified physical and/or occupational therapists, including Trenda Hoemberg, physical therapist, and Caitlyn Wolter, occupational therapist. Our staff provided their perspectives on the value or the LSVT program:

Tri-County Health Care Treating Parkinson's Disease Rehab Physical Therapy Occupational Therapy Speech Therapy LSVT BIG LSVT LOUD

“Individuals with Parkinson’s disease often struggle with daily tasks such as getting up from the chair, walking and balance. Providing the LSVT BIG program has allowed me to increase a patient’s independence throughout the day and limit support needed from their caregiver,” said Trenda. “My favorite part of being an LSVT BIG provider is when patients tell me they can walk outside without the use of a walker or cane, getting in or out of the car without help, and being able to visit with family or friends. I love watching individuals achieve their goals and engage in activities they previously enjoyed.”

“Parkinson’s disease can, unfortunately, take a lot of independence away from people. Our patients often have difficulty with basic daily tasks that were once easy to them, such as getting dressed or doing household chores. Being an LSVT BIG provider has given me the opportunity to watch my patients take back some – or all – of their independence,” said Caitlyn. “My favorite part of this program is when patients tell me they are able to button their shirt again, climb back into the tractor, or be able to play with their grandkids again on the floor. It is a rewarding program to be a part of.”

Effective speech treatment – LSVT LOUD

LSVT LOUD is an effective speech program for treating people with Parkinson’s disease and other neurological conditions. It trains people with Parkinson’s to use their voice at a more normal loudness level while speaking at home, work or in the community. One key to the treatment is helping people recalibrate their perceptions to know how loud or soft they sound to other people and feel comfortable using a stronger voice at a normal volume.

These programs were developed and scientifically researched for over two decades and have led to an improved impact on multiple levels of functioning in people with Parkinson’s, including:

  • Increased vocal loudness
  • Improved articulation and speech intelligibility
  • Improved intonation
  • Improvements in facial expression
  • Changes in neural functioning related to voice and speech

This treatment is delivered by over 16,000 certified LSVT clinicians around worldwide, including Meghan Current-Cary, speech-language pathologist.

“Providing the LSVT LOUD program to patients with Parkinson’s disease has allowed me to watch big gains in their ability to communicate. Talking with family and friends is a vital part of our lives and something that most of us take for granted. Communication difficulties cause a decrease in one’s ability to state their wants and needs and impacts connections with loved ones,” said Meghan. “I enjoy hearing LSVT LOUD patients’ voices become stronger. My favorite aspect of this therapy is observing patients tell their family and friends ‘I love you’ in a loud, clear voice which they may not have been able to do prior to completing this therapy.”

Getting help at Tri-County Health Care

Our team of LSVT-certified physical, occupational and speech therapists are trained in treating Parkinson’s. This treatment is customized to the needs and goals of each patient. Patients attend treatment four days a week for four weeks and must be referred by a provider or specialist. Achieving improved walking, balance, vocal loudness, and speech intelligibility are all available. Ask your provider about this treatment program today. To learn more, visit

Strength and Conditioning is key to Injury Prevention

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By Sarah Maninga, Tri-County Health Care Certified Athletic Trainer

The winter sports season continues to wind down and spring is right around the corner. It’s the time of year where athletes transition from the comfort of the gym to the sunshine of the outdoors. That is, if the snow ever melts! While athletes patiently wait for the warmth of spring to come, it’s a crucial time to prepare for the upcoming season. The month of March is not only a bridge between sports seasons, but also National Athletic Training Month! Sports Medicine Providers and Certified Athletic Trainers offer much more than just evaluating and treating injuries.

We can also help prevent injuries in the first place. But, how is that possible?Attractive sports people are strength training with dumbbells in gym

It all starts with strength and conditioning. Most of the people I work with use this for injury prevention. Muscle imbalances and weakness can lead to injuries, so it’s key to get athletes in the weight room in between seasons and in the summer to keep them injury-free. Coaches or physical education teachers open the weight room after school between seasons, and I stop in to help as much as I can.

This training isn’t just for athletes, however, it’s for people of all age groups and activity levels. Programs instead focus on each individuals’ goals and interests to establish a program they will benefit from. Progression will occur as the person is ready to ensure that they continue to see improvements and enhance their overall body strength. Studies show that lean muscle mass decreases as you age, which makes strength and conditioning even more important to your health. Improving balance can be vitally important to fall prevention.

The strength and conditioning programs for athletes expand in the summer months.

At the schools I work with – Wadena-Deer Creek, Menahga and Sebeka – athletes complete hour-long workouts in the weight room, three days a week. We train using a wide range of exercises that focus on the whole body and in addition to conditioning. A major injury we see at the high school level is anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tears, so we focus on hip and core strengthening along with proprioceptive exercises to try to prevent them. The conditioning exercises we do can range from sprints to plyometric circuit training.

We also do plenty of work on single leg balance exercises to prevent injuries to the ankles and knees, which are common injuries at the high school level. The shoulder is known to be an unstable joint, so we make strengthening it another area of focus.

Adult wstrength training at the gym with a personal trainer and looking very happy - healthy lifestyle conceptsFor those without access to weight rooms, there are many options and tools at your disposal right in your own home. Soup cans or milk jugs can be used as weights while doing exercises. Stairs can be perfect for running up and down for conditioning or step up exercises. If you look around, your home has plenty to offer to assist with workouts!

You can even use your own body weight to do many different exercises. Squats, lunges, push-ups, planks and step ups are just a few common exercises that require no equipment and provide a good workout right in your home.

Athletic trainers wear plenty of hats in our line of work. From high school outreach to injury evaluations to training programs, we aim to help you recover from an injury or help prevent it in the first place. We would prefer to see you happy and healthy. So, whether you are an athlete competing in a state tournament or someone preparing for your first 5K race, we want to emphasize the importance of strength and conditioning.

If you are unsure about starting an exercise program, please consult your provider to make sure it is right and safe for you. To learn more about our Sports Medicine program at Tri-County Health Care, click here.

In the event of an injury, Tri-County Health Care’s Rehab Services can help you regain your strength through services that include Aquatic Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Physical Therapy and Speech Therapy.Athletic Trainer, Sarah Maninga with her family

About the Author: Sarah Maninga has been an athletic trainer at TCHC since January 2015. She works with athletes at three area schools: Wadena-Deer Creek, Sebeka and Menahga. During her time off, she enjoys spending time with her husband and daughter on their small farm and doing anything that involves being outside, especially hunting and running.