Speech Therapy – Noticing the Need for Speech Therapy

When does a senior need speech therapy? How can you become aware of the red flags that indicate that something is changing? Why is it important to give speech therapy as part of senior healthcare as soon as possible thereafter? Learn to see the need for speech therapy within the process of rehabilitation.


When do Seniors need Speech Therapy?

It is a tribute to the complexity of the human body that so many of the body systems are interdependent and function in perfect co-existence in a healthy person.

Following illness that affected the voice path, an injury causing head trauma or a stroke, the speech system or related systems, such as swallowing, could be affected, causing difficulties in speaking and eating.

Some of these difficulties include:

Asphasia or Dysphasia– difficulty in generating and comprehending language and speech due to brain damage.

Dysarthria – characterized by slurred speech and problems swallowing because the muscles in the face, mouth or respiratory system became weak.

Dysphagia – if due to stroke or other causes the part of the brain that is responsible for swallowing is affected.

Apraxia of Speech –  Speech related disorders where the tongue and muscles are prevented from forming words.


Red Flags for Speech Therapy

When a person is in recovery, you might want to maintain these practices:

Personal Awareness

The most obvious signs that there is need for speech therapy could come across in day today interactions. When a senior adult is communicating with others, they should be aware of their own speech abilities. Similarly, when eating and swallowing, it is important to have a personal awareness of whether the person is eating properly and efficiently.

Interpersonal Awareness

If a person is communicating with a senior adult, that person should be aware of how the senior adult is speaking and eating. Notice if speech is degenerating, or swallowing becomes difficult, or there is an unusual and repeated difficulty.

If necessary write it down, since it is challenging to recall minor things or something a person thought that they noticed. Written notes could be very helpful in identifying a pattern.

Awareness of Communicating Needs

If a senior adult has difficulty in communicating their needs, or something could possibly prevent them from keeping safe, or they are unable to manage their personal or financial matters, speech therapy should be considered in addition to any other therapies that are being applied.


Time is of Essence

Once the need is identified, the sooner the speech therapy sessions can begin, the better it is. In the case of therapy following stroke, speech therapy should begin immediately following the stroke, as soon as the patient has recovered sufficiently. If the services are provided in short-term rehabilitation center or skilled-nursing facility, speech therapy services might be in-house, making it easier for the patient and the family.

Why is it imperative, to act as expeditiously as possible? Because in this case, speed and efficiency will enable the delicate and complex system of the nerves to be salvaged and repaired while there is the best hope for that to happen. Neural plasticity is an incredible feature of the brain allowing spontaneous adaption of the brain to new situations such as following damage by illness or stroke. The therapy can have the most effect, while the nerves are still healthy.

Some facts and figures about stroke recovery are presented in Stroke Recovery Time: Facts & Figures – GuideDoc provided for your reference.

In all cases where speech therapy is recommended, a full assessment needs to be made by a speech language pathologist. Self-education by learning about ways to help a senior adult express themselves, as they surely want to do, will complement the professional services to be provided.


The Patient as a Person

It is important to remember that a senior adult who has suffered an illness or a stroke that affected their speech or related systems is very much still a person. Where possible and when the senor is comfortable to do so, friends and family should engage the senior in conversation.


Senior healthcare strives to be on the crest of the wave as more is learnt about the ability of the brain to recover following illness or stroke and the effectiveness of therapy such as speech therapy to that purpose. Rehabilitation and skilled nursing can help by enabling a patient to access speech therapy in the most convenient manner.


Speech Therapy - Every Word Is Precious image


Original Photo by Eddy Boom on Unsplash

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