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Speech therapy provides benefits to many older adults

May 28, 2015

As we age, everyone knows our bodies change, including speaking abilities, which can be affected by illness, personal struggles or simply by aging.

If chewing/swallowing is exhausting, or you find yourself coughing before, during or after a swallow, the quality of your voice has changed or even if there's food in the mouth after swallowing, a speech therapist could help.

When a problem becomes evident with communication, language and swallowing, the best plan of action is taking action.

Speech therapy at any age can be beneficial when it comes to communicating with family, doctors and friends and even assist in conditions that affect muscles related to speech.

Not only can a patient benefit from proactive individual therapy, training and education, but also those who interact with you on a daily basis.

Speech therapy is necessary when it comes to Parkinson's disease, a brain injury, a stroke or even a fall, but also underlying medical conditions can affect speech, according to Kristine L. Conley, a speech language pathologist at The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR) Memorial Hermann Adult and Pediatric Outpatient Rehabilitation.

A wide range of disorders affecting speech and swallowing include apraxia, dysarthria, dysphagia and orofacial myofunctional disorders. These disorders impact communication skills, coordinated muscular movements, difficulty in articulating words and swallowing, as well as paralysis of facial muscles.

Speech therapists also can address helping patients focus on tasks, memory, reasoning, problem solving, executive functioning such as goal-setting, planning, self-awareness, self-monitoring and improving cognitive function.

Choosing to engage in speech therapy is a personal choice, but one that can move a patient to a more independent life.

"Patients come to us as a result of some type of incidence. As voices age, they may need voice therapy and more appropriate ways to use their voice," Conley said.

The first step is a basic evaluation.

"We have to understand what level the patient is functioning at, what their goals are and how we can help them by getting the patient and family to work together," she said.

A variety of treatments is available using staged rehabilitation and active exercises.

With the addition of techniques and technologies, patients have numerous options at working to improve their quality of speech.

From melodic intonation therapy to Visi-Pitch and Bungalow software programs, each client can find ways to communicate.

Other methods of speech therapy, which can be found at tirr.memorialhermann.org/programs-specialties/speech-therapy, include Vital-Stim and the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment.

These address strategies when eating, in addition to methods and options to assist in restoring oral communication most often those affected by Parkinson's disease.

Conley said how vital it is to be aware of any changes in your body because there are ways to improve your quality of life.

"Sometimes change is really small, and then you're not aware of it," Conley said. "There are treatment methods to bring them along as far as we can and then do staged rehabilitation.

"We try very hard. We make sure they and their families are well-trained with active exercises and homework. We want the family and patient to work together.

"It helps to lead a healthy lifestyle in their mind and body."

(Source: chron.com)


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