Dialog Box

Speech Pathology Week 2023

It’s Speech Pathology Week 2023 – and the theme is “Communicating For Life”. 

We wanted to highlight the important role of our speech pathology colleagues at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne – we spoke to two speech pathologists, Helen Leousis and Nickie Gyomber to get their insights into how they communicate for life in palliative care.

St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne Speech Pathologists, Nickie Gyomber and Helen Leousis

It’s not unusual to be asked “What does a Speech Pathologist do in Palliative Care?” and it’s a question we love to answer! Speech Pathologists work alongside people promoting communication and swallowing, and we do this across the entire lifespan. Moving towards end of life presents particular challenges and Speech Pathologists draw from our training to optimise dignity and comfort at this very vulnerable time.

Jack was a gentleman who had motor neurone disease, which had dramatic impacts on his swallowing and communication capabilities. Jack and his family had engaged with Speech Pathology services since diagnosis and had managed well in their home context. However, along with increasing personal and medical care needs, Jack also required updated Speech Pathology intervention for additional oral care and communication support. Jack’s past employment as a copywriter meant that precise communication was important.

On admission Jack’s only communication was writing, which he found very tiring and avoided due to fatigue. Distressingly, he was initially unable to describe his need for pain medications, making it difficult for the team to treat.

Communication intervention involved developing:
  • A pain board that Jack could readily access, giving him the capacity to describe his own pain with minimal support.
  • An accessible communication board of “frequent phrases” for basic needs using individualised language enabled Jack to participate in his care, allowing his “voice” to be heard.
  • A Conversation Primer that described “who” Jack was, assisting staff to engage in meaningful and interesting conversation with Jack. Jack’s wife reported a sense of Jack “being heard” in the process of creating the tool and she valued the final document as a legacy item.

What does a Speech Pathologist do in Palliative Care? We work to uphold dignity, comfort, and quality of life.

22 August 2023
Category: General News