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During the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an increased focus on therapists and their vital role in preventing hospital readmissions. Speech therapy practitioners, in particular, are able to help avert the need for alternative means of nutrition, provide interventions for improved cognition and independence, and also assist with proper respiratory techniques post-hospitalization.

Each patient is impacted differently by the restrictions and changes. By having properly trained personnel who will make the patient's need a top priority and produce revised treatment plans, patients will continue to experience positive outcomes.

Below is a list of individualized treatment ideas that could be implemented following a thorough evaluation of medical history, current medication and physical examination of a patient:

Dysphagia:

  • Diet modifications
  • Oral strengthening, ROM exercises and maneuvers for improved oral cavity clearance
  • Oral coordination exercises for bolus control
  • Oropharyngeal coordination exercises (timing, breath hold)
  • Pharyngeal strengthening exercises to reduce workload and need for multiple swallows
  • Respiratory coordination challenges like straws, consecutive swallows, and mixed consistencies
  • Laryngeal elevation exercises (effortful pitch glide, Mendelsohn maneuver)
  • Teaching and training in use of compensatory strategies

Respiratory/Dyspnea/Endurance:

  • Positioning technique modifications to maximize respiration (may involve collaboration with PT/OT)
  • Abdominal breathing exercises (pursed lip, diaphragmatic breathing, exertion-exhalation coordination)
  • Exercises targeted to decrease throat tension and promote passive inspiration
  • Biofeedback

Cognitive and Cognitive Linguistics:

  • Use of external memory aids/alarms for ADLs, orientation and safety
  • Implementation of the errorless learning technique
  • Attention to task activities (following conditional directions, list recall for medications, ADL tasks, treatment team names)
  • Problem solving (transfer sequencing, insight and safety awareness, identifying issues, possible outcomes, solutions)
  • Complex reasoning and problem solving tasks (medication management, financial management, calendar, planning and scheduling)
  • Executive functioning tasks (self-awareness, organization, self-monitoring, planning for the future)
  • Short-term memory recall (word lists, telephone message recall, therapy schedule appointments, orientation to place and space)

Restrictions on various treatments and activities have proven difficult for facilities and most importantly, their patients, but thanks to the dedication and passion of speech therapists, patients are still able to receive the critical care they need to continue making improvements in their recovery journey. 

By RehabCare