Before reaching the age of 65, people often take for granted the ability to speak and express their ideas or feelings. But this changes when a person ages and their speaking proficiency may be impacted: such communication challenges are associated with traumatic brain injury (TBI) resulting from falls or frailty, Parkinson’s disease, dementia, Alzheimer’s or following a stroke. When these conditions impact communication skills, seniors can begin to feel lonely, socially isolated and can even become anxious.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), social isolation is an important social determinant of health (SDOH) for seniors since the inability to express oneself or conduct a conversation with friends and family can lead to serious negative health effects. Studies reflect the importance of healthy social relationships for the physical and mental wellbeing of older adults. According to a more than 85-year-long study by Harvard University, “Our relationships and how happy we are in those relationships have a powerful influence on our health.”
Seniors who are unable to communicate may experience the following:
Fortunately, the availability of virtual speech therapy is empowering seniors -- and people of all ages -- with the right tools to overcome communication challenges. Just like caring for oneself through a good diet and regular exercise, investing in how you or a loved one communicates with others is also a wonderful form of self-care. Virtual speech therapy is an investment that provides a great return: happiness.
Advantages of Adopting Technology
According to Pew Research Center, the adoption of technology by Americans in the oldest age group has grown “markedly” over the past decade. 61% of those 65 and older own a smartphone and 45% reported using social media. As the elderly become more comfortable with using new technology it becomes easier for them to receive virtual care. In fact, in a National Institute on Aging Trends study of adults aged 65 years and older, 88% of participants who were not socially isolated had a working cell phone, 71% reported having a working computer and 56% also said they used email or text messaging.
This comfort with technology can transform care since they may have a neurological condition such as Parkinson's, Alzheimer’s or dementia that also impacts their ability to travel to clinic appointments, they welcome the opportunity to access online speech therapy from the familiar comforts of home. Virtual access also lessens family and caregiver burden with the added flexibility to schedule sessions that accommodate busy schedules such as evenings or weekends.
Additionally, virtual speech therapy offers access to a network of licensed speech therapists nationwide, so personalized care that is tailored to each specific individual is more accessible. Great Speech, a leading online speech therapy company, is able to optimize pairing patients with the most qualified speech therapists for a patient’s specific condition regardless of their location. Such a program does not simply schedule a patient into the next open time slot but rather it considers the experience, education and expertise of therapists to create the best-indicated therapy/patient care partnership. This level of sub-specialized care and more focused therapy sessions ensures faster results in a shorter time frame.
It is important to identify a virtual speech therapy company that is approved by Medicare and has contracted with multiple insurance plans to provide patients with in-network coverage. Additionally, many providers will accept commercial insurances as well, and with them you may be able to use Flexible Spending Account (FSA) and Health Savings Account (HSA) dollars to potentially cover any out-of-pocket deductibles and may be fully covered once the deductible is met.
Communication is central to adjusting and adapting to the aging process, and virtual speech therapy stimulates an understanding of what’s happening around the person and is proven to strengthen relationships between seniors, their loved ones and care providers. SLPs play a crucial role in assisting seniors by strengthening their communication skills and ability to interact with other people. Providing older adults with the necessary tools to express themselves enables them to lead independent lives, speak about any troubling physical or emotional issues and pursue their interests and goals while maintaining their personal relationships and making new friends.
About the Author
Avivit Ben-Aharon, MS ED., MA CCC SLP is the CEO and Clinical Director at Great Speech, Inc, a virtual speech therapy company founded in 2014. She trailblazed nationwide virtual access to speech therapy, allowing anyone who is committed to improving their communication to receive expert services, regardless of location or scheduling limitations. Her work has been featured on Forbes, Good Morning America, the US News and World Report, the Miami Herald, and more. She graduated from The City University of New York with a Master of Arts in Speech-Language Pathology and Hunter College with a Master of Science in Special Education and Teaching. You can connect with Avivit or her amazing therapists at www.greatspeech.com.