What do Speech Pathologists do for older adults?

23 May, 2023

Speech Pathology is a profession that specialises in assessing, diagnosing, and treating communication disorders in people of all ages. While Speech Pathology is commonly associated with children, it also plays a crucial role in improving the quality of life for older adults. In this blog, we will discuss what a Speech Pathologist can do for older adults.

Speech Pathology Session for Older Adult

Initial Assessment

The first step a Speech Pathologist (SP) takes is conducting a detailed evaluation of the individuals communication abilities (including speech, language and/or voice) as well as swallowing. They gather information through various tests and conversations with the individual, their family, and caregivers.

Diagnosis

Based on the information collected and tests conducted, the SP makes a diagnosis. The diagnosis indicates whether the individual has a communication or swallowing disorder. SP’s can also assist with managing issues due to an existing diagnosis (e.g. Stroke, Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Multiple Sclerosis (MS), Parkinson’s disease, or Dementia). The diagnosis helps to inform the treatment plan.

Treatment

Once the Speech Pathologist has diagnosed a communication or swallowing disorder, they can create a personalised and evidence-based treatment plan that aims to improve communication or swallowing and the overall quality of life for the older adult. Treatment may include speech exercises, swallowing therapy, voice therapy, or language training. Progress will be monitored, and the plan can be altered as necessary for the individual to achieve functional goals.

 

Communication aids

In some cases, SPs may recommend using communication aids to supplement or replace verbal communication. These come in various forms, such as picture or symbol boards, alphabet boards, or electronic devices that generate speech. These tools can help older adults with communication disorders express themselves more easily and effectively.

 
Utilising our Multidisciplinary Team

For older adults experiencing difficulties swallowing, Speech Pathologists can provide exercises and techniques to strengthen the throat muscles and improve swallowing ability. They may also recommend working with our Dietitian’s to implement changes to their diet, such as modifying food textures and providing education about foods to avoid.

 
Assistance with existing Diseases or Disorders

Speech pathologists can provide services for older adults with neurological conditions like Stroke, TBI, MS, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia. They help individuals with MS find ways to manage speech and swallowing difficulties. An SP can work with older adults who have Parkinson’s to improve vocal projection and speech intelligibility, as well as managing swallowing challenges. They can also assist individuals with Dementia to maintain communication skills by using picture or symbol boards and other communication aids or by working with communication partners like family and friends.

Speech Pathology services can be essential for older adults experiencing communication and swallowing disorders. Our Speech Pathologists assess, diagnose, and treat communication disorders, aiming to improve older adults’ quality of life. They also aim to work with other clinicians within our Multidisciplinary Teams, ensuring older adults receive well-rounded care and support.

 

Make an appointment to see our team today 

If you or a loved one is experiencing communication difficulties, swallowing difficulties or any of the conditions outlined above, consider seeking Speech Pathology services. To make an appointment with our Speech Pathologists, contact us today on 1300 122 884.

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