Speech Pathology is Proven to Improve Quality of Life in Nursing Home Residents.

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Many residents in nursing homes and long-term care have limited speech or develop communicative problems. When a resident is set up with a speech pathologist, put on a care plan, and commits to their plan, they have the opportunity to improve their quality of life through their improved relationships, improved communication to express their needs, and a better sense of self. Nursing homes strive to help each resident attain their highest level of functional ability, and this includes restorative speech therapy and language skills.

Many of the elderly are at risk for mental disorders and depression. According to WebMD, depression affects 6 million Americans aged 65 or older. Clinical depression can be debilitating in many ways, but particularly for senior citizens because they are already at risk for many illnesses and complications. Depression adversely affects those aged 65 and older by magnifying potential cardiac disease, the likelihood of death from unassuming viruses, and impair the likelihood of rehabilitation and recovery.

A significant aspect of addressing clinical depression in long-term care centers resides in occupational therapy, physical therapy, and speech pathology. The remedial treatment works to improve quality of life, which can have a powerful effect on mental disorders and illness. Interestingly, speech therapy specifically, can consequentially provide a better quality of life for those suffering from mental illness.

A 62-year-old woman suffered from schizophrenia, bronchitis, and hypertension. She lived in a nursing home, but she chose to live in isolation because of her lack of communicative skills. The medication she was taking caused her tongue to swell, obstructing any chances of verbal communication or balanced diet. A case study was performed on her by Jean M. Novak and Karen M. Kapolnek to test the positive effects of speech pathology for those in long-term care suffering from mental illness. One year of transdisciplinary rehabilitation included speech-language pathology, nursing, and group sessions in communication. The speech therapy made it possible for her to begin expressing her feelings with enhanced speech lucidity. Following a year of the therapy, the woman spent less time in her room, “her behavior changed dramatically,” and “she even was able to joke with the other residents.”

Speech pathology, in this case, was key to helping the woman with her mental disorders and dramatically improved her quality of life by allowing her to establish relationships and make connections with her peers. She was able to have a more fulfilling experience because the nursing home worked toward long-term care.

There are many speech pathology disorders and a few that are addressed in nursing homes include swallowing, memory, problem-solving, comprehension, and expressivity. For example, difficulty swallowing can cause issues with eating and nutrition, which can cause a lack of energy and incite apathetic and depressive behaviors in an individual.

Many therapists strive to use speech pathology interventions to assist individuals in three primary ways. Firstly, in tolerating a ground diet without symptoms of aspiration pneumonia. Secondly, safe swallowing techniques are practiced to prevent aspiration. And finally, strengthening oral motor function is addressed to ensure daily speech and swallowing capabilities.

Nursing homes and long-term care facilities endeavor to heal and rejuvenate patients and elderly individuals by targeting issues that, when resolved, can drastically improve the quality of life. They pursue improved mental health by utilizing therapies. Addressing speech pathology can affect individuals greatly by improving diet and communication skills. Nursing homes use speech therapy to fulfill their responsibilities and goals as long-term health care providers.

Written by:
Anna Salvania






Improving the lives of those with Alzheimer’s

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By Lexi Russell

Man looking into the distance

Post-Acute and Long Term Care facilities have the opportunity to improve the lives of their residents with Alzheimer’s Disease. Though Alzheimer’s has no known cure, the quality of life of those with Alzheimer’s can be improved through programs, attention, consistency, and many other factors.

November is National Alzheimer’s Awareness month. In the month of November, we make a special push to teach about Alzheimer’s, and we work to bring to light the measures that can be taken to improve the lives of those living with this disease.

First of all, resident-centered activity programs are extremely helpful to those with Alzheimer’s. If led by compassionate, and highly trained, staff the activities can provide comfort, solace, relaxation, companionship, and, in some cases, can lessen symptomatic behaviors. If the activities include family members or local peers, they even improve the community.

Planning a successful activity program for those with Alzheimer’s can be challenging. Because consistency is key, successful programs should be part of the resident’s overall routine. Activities should be adaptable for safety, resident’s ability, behavioral changes, mood, and ability to stay focused that day. Well-trained, compassionate staff should direct physical guidance and prompts, be flexible in their approach, and work to optimize each resident’s sense of success while minimizing the resident’s frustration and agitation.

Planning activities to meet these needs can be challenging. Each stage of dementia must be kept in mind, and how the stages impact each resident’s cognitive function and ability to participate. It is vitally important to make each activity failure-free so residents leave feeling uplifted and successful.

Residents with mild dementia benefit most from activities that maintain or improve their functional and cognitive abilities. When residents suffer from mild Alzheimer’s or dementia, they are often aware, and embarrassed, by their memory loss. Activities that include recalling words, learning something new, thinking abstractly and decision making are very difficult for those at this stage and should be avoided. If one of these activities is done, staff should be aware that it may take them longer, and they may require prompts and other aids to help their memory process.

For those with moderate dementia, activities should be catered to their deterioration in cognitive function. This loss of cognitive function often includes extensive memory loss and disorientation, poor language ability, and loss of safety awareness. These residents need many reminders, redirection, cues, and direct physical guidance to complete tasks.

Residents with severe dementia, activities should provide stimulation, comfort, solace, and relaxation, and should avoid stress, recall, and cognitive function. These residents may enjoy listening to music, or a similar, stress-free, activity.

Residents with Alzheimer’s require a special level of care, with their activities, safety, and other concerns. These residents benefit vastly from living in a community that can cater to all of these concerns and provide resident-centered activities and inclusive, personalized programs.

How Post-Acute and Long-Term Centers Care for Mental Health

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“All aspects of care and services in a long-term or post-acute center can contribute to overall well-being, including physical, mental, and social health.” (Huaiquil, 2017)

Long-term and post-acute facilities are increasingly having to combat mental health issues in residents. Providers play an enormous role in the mental health of individuals, and, as such, must be up to date and practiced in the most successful means of caring for these residents.

Care centers strive to provide the care and services needed to attain or maintain each individual’s highest practicable physical, mental, and psychological well-being, through the care of the staff and the individual’s comprehensive assessment and care plan.

Mental health illnesses are conditions that affect a person’s thinking, mood, or feeling. These illnesses also may affect a person’s ability to function and ability to relate to others. The elderly make up a large portion of the population with mental health issues. It is estimated that one in four individuals over 55 experience a behavioral disorder, with depression being the most commonly seen disorder in post-acute and long-term care facilities.

Another common mental illness in long-term care facilities is dementia. Facilities who work with residents using therapy and on-staff psychologists to create behavior management plans are the most successful, and the least costly.

Residents who are admitted to care centers lose their health status, ambulation, home, community, activities, routines, and many other elements of the life they have grown accustomed to. This can often lead to depression and redefine identity.

These transitionary times place a large responsibility on the staff at post-acute and long-term care centers. Facilities strive to help each resident become fully engaged in their new environment, create meaningful connections with other residents, attend positive activities, and get up each morning with goals to accomplish.

Each long-term and post-acute care center has had residents with mental health issues. Often, the key to success is to help each resident with their individual symptoms and work to help the individual achieve success. Success is often defined by the resident, and facilities strive to increase their quality of life so they can define themselves as successful.

Post-acute and long-term care centers have a great responsibility to care for each resident who comes to their facility. Each resident has individual needs, and the Care Centers must successfully treat all aspects of physical, mental, and social health in order to help each resident achieve their highest functional ability and define themselves as successful.