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Covington health care experts use speech therapy to help senior citizens
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The simple act of swallowing is something many of us take for granted. Yet every year, approximately 10 million Americans are diagnosed with swallowing disorders, known as dysphagia. Nearly all dementia patients develop dysphagia, and swallowing disorders are associated with stroke, progressive neurological disorders including multiple sclerosis and Parkinson's.

In Covington, the speech-language pathology program offered by Amedisys Home Health works with patients to recover their swallowing and communication skills. Last year, Amedisys' speech-language pathology team helped patients meet nearly 71 percent of their treatment goals, compared with the national average of nearly 52 percent, according to the American Speech-Language and Hearing Association National Outcomes Measurement System report.

"People who have difficulty swallowing food and liquids open themselves up to a range of health problems, such as weight loss, poor nutrition, dehydration, choking and aspiration pneumonia," said David Hutchings, CCC-SLP.D., managing director of rehab services for Amedisys. "It's crucial to help patients recover the ability to swallow."

Over the past decade, the number of elderly Medicare patients who were admitted to the hospital for aspiration pneumonia increased by nearly 94 percent, said Dr. Hutchings. Aspiration pneumonia is one of the main types of pneumonia and hospitalizations in the elderly population.