Speech Therapy Addresses Many Needs

Including Swallowing Disorders, Voice Treatment Services, Pediatric Services, Speech and Swallowing Treatment for Parkinson’s

Speech therapy is commonly understood as a means to treat speech and language communication disorders, but at the Samaritan Health and Rehabilitation Center, it is so much more.

In fact, a change that was made October 1, 2010 to Medicare reimbursement will greatly affect patients with voice prosthesis. These patients had a laryngectomy due to cancer of the head or neck, and have opted to regain voice function through a tracheoesophageal (TE) voice prosthesis.

With a general life span of three to six months, TE voice prosthesis must be changed quite often by either a physician or a speech-language pathologist. Since Medicare now requires patients to purchase TE voice prosthesis from only those qualified to replace the prosthesis, it’s important to note Samaritan Regional Health System’s two full time speech-language pathologists can both perform this outpatient procedure.

“This is big for Medicare patients,” said Susie Barker, one of Samaritan’s speech therapists. “There is only one other local healthcare provider offering this service without having to travel to Cleveland or Columbus.”

Dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, is another medical condition that is treated at the Samaritan Health and Rehabilitation Center. It is estimated that 15 million Americans have difficulty swallowing, which is attributed to stroke, the aging process, respiratory failure, degenerative neurological disease, and head and neck cancer.

Left untreated, swallowing difficulties can lead to aspiration, pneumonia, choking, chronic malnutrition, severe life-threatening dehydration, an increased rate of infection, longer hospital stays, long-term institutional care and even death.

Recently, the Samaritan Health and Rehabilitation Center added a new modality of treatment to the standard dysphagia therapy. The new treatment, called VitalStim therapy, is a non-invasive neuromuscular electrical stimulation therapy that provides biofeedback to engage patients during therapy sessions.

“We have a very structured program for our swallowing patients,” Barker explained. “After four weeks of treatment, patients repeat the swallowing evaluation. From the beginning to end of treatment, which usually lasts approximately three months, we have a 90 – 95% improvement rate.”

Swallowing issues are also present in children, which is why the Samaritan Health and Rehabilitation Center offers pediatric modified barium swallow studies. Barker said it is unfortunate more parents aren’t aware this service is provided locally. With a smaller facility and staff, children often feel more comfortable because they can play before the study, familiarizing themselves with their environment. In addition, traveling is stressful to both the child and parents.

Just as children’s needs are addressed, staff at the Samaritan Health and Rehabilitation Center also addresses specific speech concerns for patients with Parkinson Disease, as 89% of these patients will have problems with speech. These problems, which include: soft voice; mumbled speech; monotone speech; and hoarse voice will start early in the disease process, progressively diminishing their quality of life.

A Parkinson-specific speech therapy program known as the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment, or LSVT LOUD, is offered at the Samaritan Health and Rehabilitation Center. The benefits of this program, which takes 16 individual treatment sessions, have been found to last from two to three years. It promotes improved vocal loudness; improved speech intelligibility; and more facial expression.

If you or a loved one could benefit from any of these speech therapy services, talk to your physician. Speech therapy at the Samaritan Health and Rehabilitation Center needs a physician referral. To participate in LSVT Loud therapy, a referral is needed from an ENT, who must examine the vocal folds prior to beginning treatment.

Please call the Samaritan Health and Rehabilitation Center at 419-281-1330 for more information about these or other services.