Beccy Oliver is a physiotherapist and member of the Parkinson’s UK Excellence Network Exercise Hub.
My interest in all things neurological came from an amazing mentor I had when I was working as a junior physiotherapist in Basingstoke. She had a passion for improving people’s lives whatever their situation and treated all her patients with such dignity. When I moved to Frimley hospital in Surrey as a senior physiotherapist I kept finding myself drawn to the long-term rehabilitation wards which regularly involved supporting people affected by Parkinson’s.
I used to run hospital physiotherapy programmes for people with Parkinson’s but I found it very frustrating. We worked really hard with people for six weeks then had to discharge them knowing they might not see a physiotherapist again for a long time. I’m a firm believer in helping people with Parkinson’s to take control of their own rehab, but I’ve also seen the extra progress people make when they get regular professional support in a group setting.
I started running the Parkinson’s UK Bracknell branch exercise group around 2013. I love the friendship and camaraderie. We chuckle about one member always being the last in and another member having the loudest voice during our dual task exercises. And I get to hear how the latest bowling match went against our local ‘rivals’ in the Reading branch!
About a year ago a member of our group saw a man doing tai chi in his local park so we invited him to our class to show us more. It was amazing to watch his skill and we all had a go, which was great fun. We’ve been using some tai chi in our class ever since.
I love the problem-solving aspect of the work I do. It’s a bit like being Sherlock Holmes! You meet someone for the first time or someone you know develops a new problem and you have to observe the situation, think creatively and try out different ideas until you find a solution.
When I started leading the group I contacted Parkinson’s UK, who put me in touch with other physios who were setting up classes in their areas. We have now set up the Exercise Hub where physiotherapists and exercise professionals who work with people with Parkinson’s can connect and share ideas.
My classes aren’t just a chance for a nice chat and some gentle stretches! We use new approaches such as high intensity exercise and we focus on big, strong, open movements.