Speech pathology 101

Communication impairments are some of the most common issues that elderly Australians in Residential Aged Care Facilities (RACFs) have to deal with on a daily basis. These are most frequently to do with language, speech and voice problems, all of which can hinder a resident's ability to talk and understand.

Fortunately, these impairments can often be addressed, managed and improved through the medium of speech pathology - a branch of medicine that helps people to deal with communication issues, amongst other areas of difficulty such as swallowing. These treatments are provided by a RACF through the Aged Care Funding Instrument, or ACFI, which allocates funding for a professional speech pathologist or speech therapist. Improving a resident's ability to communicate can lead to increased confidence and a better quality of life, which makes it one of the most important programs for a RACF to offer.

At Australian Health Professionals, we provide qualified speech pathologists who can assist residents with the management of their conditions in order to live the best life possible. Here are a few of the areas where we can provide specialist help with communication impairments.

Speech pathology 101Communication is crucial for quality of life.

1. Language

Many people experience aphasia after a stroke or brain injury. This is due to the damage sustained by the parts of the brain that deal with language. Aphasia causes issues with speaking, listening, reading and writing, as well as comprehension. It does not affect intelligence though, and the condition can be incredibly frustrating as residents may be able to perfectly understand what they want to say, but don't have the ability to produce the correct language.

Many types of treatment are available for aphasia, and Australian Health Professionals can service these to residents, as well as supplying staff with the knowledge they'll need to communicate with the language impaired.

2. Speech

Unlike language issues, which relate to the comprehension and use of words, speech disorders are impairments of articulation and fluency. This is often referred to as dysarthria, and is most commonly caused by restricted movement of the muscles used to create speech and sound. Dysarthria is caused by a number of different conditions, ranging from a stroke to Parkinson's disease.

Dysarthria is treatable though, and a speech therapist will assess an individual patient's needs in order to create a tailored management and rehabilitation program for them.

Australian Health Professionals can provide RACFs with speech therapists that are qualified and experienced.

3. Voice

Voice issues fall under the same broad umbrella as speech impairments, but are less to do with articulation and more specifically related to problem areas of a resident's communication abilities. These are commonly to do with elements such as pitch and volume, which affect a patient's ability to make themselves understood by staff, friends and family.

A common example of a voice disorder is the quiet speech typical of patients dealing with Parkinson's disease and other neurological conditions. The treatment for this particular issue is known as Lee Silverman Voice Treatment, or LSVT for short, and can be incredibly effective. Australian Health Professionals provides RACFs with qualified and experienced LSVT speech therapists in order to help patients communicate as effectively as possible.

4. Swallowing

Although less to do with communication than other areas of speech pathology, swallowing is one of the most important aspects of aged care. Problems such as gagging or choking are huge issues that need to be dealt with promptly and properly in order to keep residents safe and happy. Swallowing difficulty is often referred to as dysphagia, and it can be combated through systems and strategies developed by a speech pathologist to suit a resident's needs.

While it's always best to have an experienced speech pathologist on hand to deal with specific issues, it's important for RACF staff to have a basic grounding in the field in order to effectively assist residents. Australian Health Professionals can provide in-service training for clients, staff, volunteers and family across a range of areas including identification of choking signs, meal management and non-verbal communication.

RACFs have many duties to their residents, ranging from physiotherapy to dietetics. Of all of these treatments, speech pathology is amongst the most important. This is because communication is a basic human right, and a skill that we all use whether we are aware of it or not. Without the ability to understand and make themselves understood, residents can become withdrawn and isolated, which leads to a decreased quality of life.

Speech pathology can help to prevent this, and keep residents happily able to have conversations with anyone and everyone that they come across. For more information on the benefits of speech therapy, get in touch with Australian Health Professionals today.

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