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Monday, May 17, 2010

Knowledge transfer approach builds a community of communicators

By Mark Evans, Alberta Health Services, Freelance May 17, 2010 3:06 AM
Connie Mauer now has hope that her mom will continue to regain her ability to communicate with the support of a new Alberta Health Services' Integrated Community Living (ICL) program.
Mauer's mom, Gladys Hoknes, has aphasia, dementia and has had a stroke, making communication a challenge. Hoknes was living in Prince Albert, Sask., but moved to Edmonton's Rutherford Heights Retirement Residence last fall to be closer to family.
When Mauer heard about the Integrated Community Living program she was excited about its potential to help her mom.
The Speech-Language Pathology (SLP) in Integrated Community Living provides SLP services in the community with integrated home living, facility living, and supportive living programs and facilities. The program also provides opportunity for University of Alberta students to work with Alberta Health Services staff as part of clinical placements.
The program endeavors to target communication and swallowing needs of individuals. Theservicetargetscommunication accessibility, improving swallowing abilities and helping people live more safely with swallowing disorders.
Rhonda Kajner was the first speech language pathologist to be hired for the program last year. Another was hired in late 2009 and a third earlier this year.
"It's really exciting because we're filling a gap where there really wasn't SLP service before and we're interacting with students," said Kajner.
The program takes a new approach to provide speech language services.
"We're taking a knowledge transfer model. We're looking at sharing whatever information we can with communication partners," she said.
Rather than the client going to meet with the speech-language pathologist, the SLP goes to the client's home and works with not only the individuals but the people they have contact with on a daily basis such as friends, family members or staff in a facility setting.
"Communication happens in almost every aspect of a person's life and we're able to give other people ways to help communication in that person's environment," said Kajner.
"It's a whole community approach. It's not just one-on-one," Mauer said.
It's also more accessible, said Mauer. Having the program come to her mom's home addresses transportation challenges and the sessions are less formal so her mom is more comfortable and can concentrate better, she adds.
After starting with the ICL program in January, Mauer noticed the difference in her mom right away.
"With the home care speech pathology it isn't just about learning to speak and write again, it is all about communication. I think it gives everyone a better understanding of Mom's condition and that helps with the communication," said Mauer.
Mauer has realistic expectations about her mom's abilities to speak again and each little step forward in her communication is an improvement.
"I can see good things," she said. "She's worked hard at it. It's been a long journey."
Mauer has learned a number of new skills and tips to support the communication with her mom. The staff at the facility where Hoknes lives has also benefited from the support and is better able to communicate with her.
"It makes her feel better," said Mauer. "When people understand you, you feel better about yourself."
Depression and isolation is common for people with a communication disorder so providing the skills to others to maintain the ability to communicate is important, said Kajner.
"People tend to isolate themselves because no one around can talk with them or they can't talk with anyone else," Kajner said.
The ICL program increases opportunities for conversation, which prevents that sense of isolation, she said.
"If people have the tools to approach a person who can't talk, it makes a big difference for that person's life," Kajner said.
There are a few other places in the country that are using this approach, said Kajner. However, it's new to Alberta and gaining prominence in the field of speech and language services.
"I think this is a change that's coming," said Kajner.
The program has exceeded Mauer's expectations.
"It's hope," she said. "I just really think it's forward-thinking, I think it's wonderful."
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Alberta Health Services Speech and Language services promote communication, feeding, and swallowing abilities for individuals of all ages. Learn more about Speech and Language services at www.albertahealthservices.caor call Health Link Alberta 780-408-LINK (5465) in Edmonton and area or toll-free 1-866-408-LINK (5465)

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