Visiting Nurse Association of Ohio develops customized home healthcare plans for each of its...
Speech Language Therapy: Nurturing Memory, Cognition, and Much More Than Words
Speech Language Pathologist Amy Lewandowski is plenty busy serving VNA of Ohio's Home Healthcare patients in our Rehabilitation Services.
What you may not have known is that her work includes a whole lot more than simply helping patients learn to "speak" clearly.
Find out how her caring therapeutic services help strengthen our patients' abilities and quality of life.
1. What is your position with VNA of Ohio and what experience has brought you to our organization?
I am a Speech Language Pathologist and will complete my 4th year with VNA Ohio this coming February. VNA of Ohio has 2 full time Speech Therapists and we typically split our coverage area between the two sides of the city of Cleveland.
I have experience working with inpatient and outpatient settings as well as skilled nursing facilities. My journey to become a Speech and Language Pathologist began in my undergraduate year when I pursued an degree in Education and spent time working in a school setting. For this position, you need to earn a Masters degree in Speech Language Pathology.
My work with the VNA of Ohio primarily focuses on elderly patient care but I do see younger patients with stroke or other brain injuries and as part of our rehabilitation services.
2. How do patients find your services?
Speech therapy services are prescribed for patients struggling with swallowing issues (also known as dysphagia), changes in cognition, voice, speech intelligibility and a variety of other issues. Sometimes our home healthcare nurses and therapists detect a patient’s swallowing problem while they are in the home. Our services are then requested and we assess the patient’s needs.
3. Do you work alongside other service areas within the VNA of Ohio?
We work alongside Occupational and Physical Therapists to help patients return to their maximum level. We also work closely with nursing for medication management.
4. What is complicated about role as a Speech Language Pathologist?
Patients can be resistant to working with a speech therapist because they aren’t aware that we help them with swallowing issues and cognition. We often hear, “I can talk just fine” when we call patients to schedule. The general assumption is that we only help patients with pronunciation and talking challenges like stutters. But, the term “speech” doesn’t cover all of our work with patients!
We are trained to examine the muscles of the throat and mouth and evaluate how well they are working. Strokes and Parkinson’s Disease can cause weakness in areas of the body that were once strong.
Our specialized equipment helps us both diagnose and treat. While in the hospital, patients are sometimes given a modified barium swallow study to detect throat weakness and identify the types of items you can eat and drink. Once home, the rehabilitation process includes monitoring food consistencies and often vital stim therapy which uses small electrodes to pulsate and then stimulate the throat muscles. Because patients use the same muscles to speak and to swallow, these exercises can help strengthen both activities.
When a patient has undergone a tracheotomy, we can help them get communication devices to help them speak such as a speaking valve, a voice prosthetic, or an alternative communication device. These options often take some time to gain approval through doctors, insurance, and diagnostic plans.
If a patient is facing cognitive challenges we create a treatment plan that includes brain exercises to help them and their family strengthen their skills. Cognitive issues can make our work harder, patients don’t want to work or don’t remember why they are in therapy. In this way, memory issues with patients can be difficult.
5. What positive lessons you have learned from your work with VNA of Ohio Home Healthcare patients?
I love home healthcare because I get to see so many things in different settings! I have independence in where I work every day and have met the most amazing patients with such interesting stories.
Our VNA of Ohio patients and their families have shared so much with me and I get to train them in my speech strategies to help them help their family members. That is a really great and rewarding part of my job!
Would you or a family member benefit from our Speech Therapy Services or other Rehabilitation Services?