Speech therapy, the key role of caregivers for those with language disorders

Speech therapy, the key role of caregivers for those with language disorders

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Even for patients with speech problems, the caregiver is a fundamental pillar. Of the 3 million in Italy who assist many patients, around a third are responsible for supporting those who follow speech therapy treatments. Caregivers can, in fact, contribute to the prevention and re-education of communication and swallowing disorders and are also a “communication bridge” in dialogue with them as well as in interaction with people with dementia and aphasia (such as Bruce Willis).

How to encourage dialogue and interaction

In essence they act through the use of codified approaches such as Communication Partner Training or Augmentative Alternative Communication, and with a series of actions and strategies shared with family, friends and other professionals to encourage dialogue and interaction. This is why the European Speech Therapy Day (6 March 2024) celebrating, this year, their important role alongside speech therapists. And like every year, in the week that “surrounds” the day, from 10 to 12, the Federation of Italian Speech Therapists, FLI, opens its telephone lines and email to all citizens to obtain information on the main problems of language and on patient care. The contact number is 345.2754760, the email is [email protected]. All the information is on the site www.fli.it.

“Speech therapists recognize the crucial role of the caregiver in managing the patient and the frail person with speech disorders. Our collaboration with these reference figures – he explains Tiziana Rossetto, speech therapist and president of the FLI (Federation of Italian Speech Therapists) – is a practice that has been consolidated since well before 2020, the year of the pandemic, in which their value in the social fabric fully emerged, and which has increased over time. The collaboration with the caregiver therefore begins from the first meeting, with the drafting of the medical history and the indirect evaluation through interviews and questionnaires, and continues gradually up to the follow-ups and discharge”.

Aphasia and communication difficulties

“A help that becomes fundamental in case of language disorders such as aphasia or communication-linguistic difficulties – he adds Ilaria Ceccarelli, FLI speech therapist (ASL Rome 4) –. Here the caregiver acts as a ‘communicative partner’ through the use, for example, of codified approaches such as Communication Partner Training or Augmentative Alternative Communication, and with a series of actions and strategies shared with family, friends and other professionals to encourage the dialogue and interaction”.

Swallowing disorders

“Even in cases of swallowing disorders – he specifies Raffaella CitroFLI speech therapist (AOU Ruggi D’Aragona, Salerno) – the caregiver provides key help in organizing and managing meals as agreed with the speech therapist in terms of food consistency, administration times, facilitating postures, with an important role monitoring for the safety of the person being cared for, whose tastes and preferences, with the support of the caregiver, it will be possible to respect”.

“Moreover, in recent years – he adds Anna Giulia De CagnoFLI vice-president speech therapist – the fundamental role of the caregiver in indirect or mediated therapy has been established, especially for the developmental age, in which the speech therapist shares with the reference figures, strategies to be used in the contexts of daily life for adequate stimulation of the socio-conversational and linguistic skills”.

Caregivers are mostly women

“Furthermore, when we talk about caregivers we must not forget that they are above all women – recalls Tiziana Rossetto -. It is they who are burdened even more by family care, according to estimates released by the Ministry of Social Affairs. Yet, their value in the social fabric is not recognized and does not receive the right dignity in relation to the work offered. Also because, according to data from the Istituto Superiore di Sanità, they are at greater risk for depressive symptoms (34% vs 14% in men) and in general for a worsening of their overall health (67% vs 53%).

Speech therapists at the European Parliament

“Also for this reason, as throughout Europe, it was decided to dedicate the most important ‘day’ of the year to the caregiver”, concludes President Rossetto, who will be present on 6 March at the European Parliament in Brussels, together with the presidents of all the national associations of speech therapists affiliated to the European Speech and Language Therapy Association (ESLA), to celebrate together the European Speech Therapy Day and the collaboration between caregivers and speech therapists.

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