Goals for Speech Therapy for Seniors
Seniors that are recovering from neurological episodes, trauma, or are experiencing a cognitive health condition like dementia may face difficulty communicating with others. By setting speech therapy goals and following a consistent treatment plan, many communication skills can be improved.
Today, we are going to cover basic information about speech therapy and the kinds of goals a speech therapist might set for you or your loved one as part of their treatment plan.
How Does Speech Therapy Work?
Speech therapy involves a combination of treatments that target specific dysfunctions that a person is experiencing. These could result from a number of root causes, but symptoms usually present themselves in three forms:
Communicative issues involve a person’s partial or complete inability to form sentences that accurately reflect their thoughts, wants, and needs. As an example, they may experience difficulty with performing specific mouth movements or saying multi-syllable words.
Cognitive conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s may impact a person’s communication skills. Thoughts may not translate to comprehensible sentences that others can understand. In these circumstances, possible causes could include a decline in motor functions, disorientation, memory loss, and other similar issues.
Swallowing disorders can result from neurological episodes, physical trauma, and chronic conditions that produce physical symptoms. Treatments for these conditions often involve aiding the brain in strengthening muscles in the mouth and throat or restoring proper motor function in these areas to enable the patient to consume solid foods again.
Setting Speech Therapy Goals
Assessing the Communication Disorder
The first step toward accomplishing speech therapy goals involves assessing the root cause of the speech dysfunction. A licensed speech therapist will use both the patient’s recent medical information and insights gained through an in-person evaluation to determine what could be impacting the person’s speech and for creating an effective treatment plan.
Identifying Goals for Recovery or Adaptation
After completing an assessment, a speech therapist will develop a treatment plan with identified goals and milestones. As a person reaches these benchmarks, the exercises and other treatments may evolve.
The cause of the disorder will also influence the goals established in the speech therapy treatment plan. In some cases, a person may be able to fully restore their communicative functions. For circumstances where this may not be possible, a therapist will create a plan to help the individual adapt and develop new ways to communicate with others.
Speech therapy goals target specific dysfunctions that a person might be experiencing. Common types of treatment may include:
Muscle Strengthening Exercises
For seniors experiencing symptoms like voice weakness or swallowing difficulties, strengthening exercises can help restore functionality. The treatment plan might include exercises that target specific areas of the mouth and throat like lips, jaw, tongue, palate, and neck muscles.
Through consistent practice, the brain can relearn how to use these muscles properly to avoid impeding speech or swallowing. Goals might include strengthening the voice to reach specific decibel ranges or increasing the solidity of food at sequential milestones.
When restoring functionality is not possible, a speech therapist will develop a plan to help the individual compensate and adapt to these new challenges. These treatments often involve learning new physical and cognitive skills to complete tasks through alternate methods to help the individual maintain a level of autonomy.
Learning New Communication Devices
Electronic devices can aid people in strengthening communication abilities, either temporarily during the early stages of treatment or permanently as part of a compensatory strategy. During therapy sessions, a person will be trained to use these new tools in a simulated environment. For example, the senior may be asked to use an AAC speech tablet or smartphone app to have a conversation with the therapist about what they want for dinner.
Get Speech Therapy Services for Seniors in Albany
At Shaker Place Rehabilitation, our team of in-house speech therapists and staff provide compassionate treatment for seniors. Communication plays a critical role in helping adults maintain their autonomy and quality of life, and a supportive environment can aid in accomplishing patient-specific speech therapy goals.
To learn more about our Albany rehabilitation center, visit us online or contact an admissions specialist any time for more information.