Speech-language pathologists are professionals who specialize in understanding the science behind the process of human communication. As a member of the interdisciplinary team in a medical setting, speech-language pathologists diagnose and treat disorders of speech sound production, resonance, voice, fluency, language, cognition, feeding, and swallowing. At times, the therapists encourage development of untapped potential and skill. In working with those with chronic disabilities, the speech-language pathologist may focus on the appreciation and development of the patients’ preserved abilities. Older adults exhibit retrieval difficulties in spelling, suggestive of challenges with word phonology and orthography. In the acute hospital arena, the speech-language pathologist serves to identify cognitive communication or swallowing deficits, educates patients and families regarding areas of concern, and suggests appropriate discharge treatment options aimed to enhance self-sufficiency. The goal of intervention is not geared to “cure” a disability, but rather, to foster an optimal level of independence and function.
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The goals of geriatric rehabilitation are to maximize function and minimize activity limitations and restrictions on participation in daily life for older adults. This is accomplished in a variety of settings including acute inpatient rehabilitation facilities, skilled nursing facilities, outpatient rehabilitation clinics, and the home of the older adult. It is common for older adults to have multiple co-morbid conditions such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension, coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pointing to the need for an individualized program with adequate precautions that minimizes the risk of injury to the person undergoing a rehabilitation program. This chapter sketches the description of the demographic changes facing the US population and the impact of these changes on the delivery of health care. A careful and comprehensive evaluation of the older adults is imperative to both identifying the clinical problems and subsequently determining the appropriate rehabilitation plan.