About the SeniorAdvisor.com 2014 In-Home Innovation Scholarship: We started the scholarship program to bring awareness of the unique benefits and challenges of in-home caregiving for seniors to younger generations. The questions posed by the scholarship encouraged our nation’s future caregivers to present solutions for improving home care in the United States. College-aged students were required to answer one of the three essay topics below and provide a short bio as part of their scholarship application. Read the winning essays here.
How can your major of study improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care services?
Essay response by Katlyn Courtney, Western Kentucky University
When you hear speech therapy, a person usually thinks it only constitutes working on speaking. Speech therapists have a wide scope of practice, and can help with a variety of issues. This wide scope of practice means that speech therapists can be extremely beneficial to seniors receiving in-home health care. If you go to any nursing home, you will find speech therapists working with many of the residents. Speech therapists have skills and knowledge that may be overlooked by the caregivers, so it is important that a speech therapist is occasionally present in the home.
Many people jokingly say, “I’m losing my mind,” as an effect of getting older. It is important that a senior person keeps his brain active and working. One thing speech therapists work on is cognition. Speech therapists can slow the loss of cognition by having the person work on puzzles, playing a favorite game, or doing crossword puzzles. Some of these activities may seem juvenile, but they help in more ways than one. This not only helps the person’s brain, but also helps with keeping attention on the task. This is important, because if a person still has the ability to cook, the person’s mind could wander and the senior could potentially start a fire. Speech therapists can also work on memory by going over dates and appointment schedules. Many in-home caregivers are in charge of keeping up with schedules for the client, but like I mentioned earlier, we don’t want clients to be treated like children. A client should have as much independence as possible.
In relation to cognition, speech therapists work on safety awareness with individuals. It is important that the senior is aware of safety hazards, and can pinpoint situations that may present a concern. This is especially important for people receiving in-home health care. My Grandma actually receives in-home health care, but there are times when she is at home by herself. Even a person who always has someone at the house with them can have accidents. Those times in-between being watched, can provide hazardous opportunities; though if the person is aware of a potential accident, they are less likely to happen.
Swallowing is another issue under the speech therapist’s scope of practice. It is incredibly important that swallowing is monitored. Sometimes with a loss of cognition, swallowing can be affected. The individual could forget to swallow, and leave food in the mouth; this has the potential to result in choking later on while lying down. It is also important to monitor swallowing because the person may not be swallowing properly. If food or drink goes down the wrong pipe to the lungs, the person can aspirate which may result in pneumonia. Having pneumonia is dangerous at any age, but can be even more detrimental at an older age. Having the speech therapist come to the home to observe swallowing can prevent the issue from occurring. The speech therapist can also teach the senior and caregiver techniques on how to assist the swallowing process, so that it can be carried on when the speech therapist is not there. Some foods are harder to chew and swallow; therefore the speech therapist can determine what foods would be appropriate for the client to eat, so that the client doesn’t choke.
My major in speech therapy is a growing career in result of the baby boomers getting older. Many people will require speech therapy services, but I think that it can sometimes be overlooked in in-home health care. I hope that through my essay, I have introduced the importance of having a speech therapist in the home.
Katlyn is a senior at Western Kentucky University. She is majoring in Communication Disorders (speech therapy) with a minor in Gerontology.