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 Michelle Smith

Through the years, I have become aware of my potential to make a positive difference in my community by choosing a career in healthcare. I’ve decided to devote my education and future career to a field that will promote the self-esteem, productivity, and well-being of individuals who have stumbled across a hurdle in their health and daily living abilities. I am currently studying Communication Sciences and Disorders in order to become a speech-language pathologist. Becoming a speech-language pathologist will provide me with a myriad of routes to take, all of which lead to the common goal of improving the standard of living for countless individuals. Speech-language pathologists can contribute to the success of society through numerous positions. With this healthcare career, I’ll have the opportunity to help people thrive through therapy in neurological centers, rehabilitation clinics, hospitals, and schools, identifying pathologies and preventing possible setbacks for our future leaders. The most exciting part about being a speech therapist will be the versatility of my job. I will be able to provide personalized therapy for patients who may benefit from in-home speech or swallowing therapy. My role in the community will start at the micro level. Every time I provide therapy, an individual life will improve. Add these individuals up, and an entire country improves.

The study of Communication Sciences and Disorders can greatly improve the lives of seniors receiving in-home care services in a multitude of ways. Speech therapists use their extensive knowledge and training on swallowing disorders caused by nervous system conditions such as stroke or a brain injuries, multiple sclerosismuscular dystrophy, ALS, and Parkinson’s disease.  Speech therapists may also specialize in immune system dysfunctions, esophageal spasms, esophageal tumors, lymph nodes, or bone spurs. One of the roles of a speech therapist is diagnosing and treating dysphasia in seniors receiving in-home care. If seniors are unable to swallow properly, they may be malnourished and unable to eat, resulting in a lower standard of living. A speech therapist can identify the type of swallowing problem and create a therapy plan in order to improve the daily life of the patient. Not only do elderly receive therapy for swallowing problems, they may also suffer from a variety of diseases that take a toll on their ability to communicate effectively. Along with age, the elderly may acquire many more conditions such as strokes, Alzheimer’s, or dementia, many of which often cause problems with fluent communication, behavior, and the ability to easily complete daily tasks. If seniors do not receive the proper therapy for their speech and communication problems, they may suffer from more consequences than anticipated. Seniors living on their own may be unable to effectively communicate what they need to say. This can be dangerous because not only will they run the risk of not being able to ask for simple everyday things, but they may be unable to call 911 or ask for help in an emergency. Without the proper assistance and therapy provided by speech therapists, seniors may also have trouble communicating emotions appropriately. Problems like this could result in inappropriate behavior or misunderstandings and arguments. Difficulty communicating with doctors and nurses can also lead to serious problems such as missed medications.

Fortunately, speech therapy can be done at home to speed recovery from illness, injury or surgical procedures in seniors. Home based rehabilitation allows seniors to regain independence with daily tasks in a convenient and comfortable manner, allowing family members and care givers to be involved and informed throughout the rehabilitation process. Providing in-home care can improve the lives of seniors by performing step-by-step evaluations. Once the evaluation has been done, the speech therapist can determine the problem and create a treatment plan. The purpose of the treatment plan is to rehabilitate the patient through therapy aimed to strengthen specific abilities lost or disabled by medical conditions. The speech therapist may implement strategies to compensate for a disability such as creating a medication organizer, leaving daily notes for remembering, or using augmentative devices for communication and hearing. In order to provide the most beneficial treatment, in-home speech therapists may need to report other serious medical signs and symptoms to the patient’s primary care physician. Whether a patient is receiving rehabilitation for a stroke, heart attack, communication difficulties, or dysphagia, speech therapists play an important role by helping people regain productivity and independence. I look forward to being a critical part of the health care team, improving the lives of seniors on a daily basis.

About Michelle

Michelle is a junior at the University of Central Florida.


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