Dysphasia, or the inability to swallow normally, can affect people who are recovering from surgery, a brain injury or a stroke, or who deal with progressive degenerative neurological diseases like Parkinson’s or ALS.
For people with difficulty swallowing, every bite of food or sip of a drink can be perilous.
These patients are in danger of choking on solid food or aspirating (inhaling) the liquids they consume, which could lead to pneumonia. The problem also has an impact on patients’ quality of life, as mealtimes become complicated and stressful. Liquids – even water – must be thickened to a consistency that is not as easily aspirated. Foods must be pureed, making them easier to swallow, but not very appetizing.
Now, Visiting Nurse Association of Ohio is offering its patients access to technology that could improve their ability to swallow and, possibly, help them to eat and drink normally again.
Pam Beremand, MA, CCC-SLP, manager of rehabilitation therapy services for VNA of Ohio, said the agency is the first homecare service in the region to offer its homebound patients access to VitalStim therapy.
VitalStim uses electrodes to stimulate the outside of the patient’s neck to help strengthen the muscles that are involved in the swallowing function.
This type of therapy is considered an “adjunct modality,” which means a certified speech and language pathologist administers it in conjunction with other traditional approaches, including teaching the patient swallowing exercises and techniques.
“We’ve had patients go from tube feeding – unable to take anything by mouth – back to a normal diet (using VitalStim therapy),” Beremand said. “People who really were not able to make progress with other treatments now have access to this.”
VitalStim has been available for more than a decade to patients in hospitals, nursing homes and clinics. But, until now, homebound patients in Northeast Ohio were unable to benefit.
“Many patients haven’t had the opportunity to be treated in this method before, and that is what is so exciting,” Beremand said. “Imagine stroke patients, who have the left or right side of their bodies paralyzed. They are unable to get to outpatient therapy to get this treatment. Now, we can bring this therapy to them so they can get back some swallow function and have a better quality of life, even though they may not be able to physically get out of the house.”
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Learn more about VNA of Ohio rehabilitation therapy services, or call us today at 1-877-698-6264.