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Speech-language therapy prevents malnutrition, infections and dehydration

Jamie Wong, Ashley Chang, and Clinton Tsang, Speech Language Pathologists sitting outside

In the photo from left to right: Jamie Wong, Ashley Chang, Clinton Tsang, Speech Language Pathologists

It's something we all do throughout the day without thinking twice about it: swallowing and communicating. But when these important functions are impaired, it can have a drastic impact on one's health and overall quality of life.

This is the reality for patients who have suffered injuries that disrupt their swallowing and speech-language function, patients with cognitive problems or respiratory issues, as well as many geriatric patients. Swallowing and communication impairments, if left untreated or managed, can result in a host of medical consequences such as malnutrition, dehydration, infections and overall suboptimal quality of care.

The team of speech-language pathologists at Richmond Hospital saw the need to expand their services outside the acute-care setting and into the community — where there was a gap in outpatient services.

“It can make discharge planning very difficult if there are outstanding swallowing or communication issues without an outpatient program where they can be addressed," says Clinton Tsang, Practice Leader, Speech-Language Pathology.

Thanks to support from Professional Practice and senior leadership, and dedicated work from the team of speech-language pathologists, the Richmond Community of Care was able to open the first Richmond Outpatient Swallowing Evaluation Clinic (ROSE) this past July, after seeing patients virtually since April due to COVID-19.

“We had intended to open the clinic in April, but due to COVID-19, we had to find some ways to offer our services virtually to patients in our community until it was safe to see them in person," says Clinton. The team screened patients to determine eligibility for virtual health visits and looked at best practices around the world to develop a virtual assessment. “Patients quite liked the virtual visits and were glad they were able to receive an assessment without having to come into the hospital."

Now that programs throughout the community of care have moved into their recovery plans, the ROSE clinic is seeing patients in-person and with great success.

Josephine Pareja brought her adult son Roderick in for a swallowing assessment and evaluation recently and was very pleased with the level of explanation, information and care they received at the ROSE clinic.

“They did an x-ray of Roderick's throat and thoroughly explained what was going on that was causing him to not be able to swallow his food thoroughly," she says. “The team is very knowledgeable, dedicated to their field and very accommodating to our questions. They're the best!"

With many more success stories, the ROSE clinic is working to not only address the wait list, but expand the types of services they provide, including therapies and community-based assessments.

 “Our goal is to be able to see clients in their home," says Clinton. “This would allow us to see the client's feeding environment, collaborate directly with other home health therapists, meet the family and have open communication with them, which would allow us to make even better recommendations on how patients can manage their conditions."

SOURCE: Speech-language therapy prevents malnutrition, infections and dehydration ( )
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