COVID-19 Affected Speech, Language Therapies, UK Survey Shows

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by Diana Campelo Delgado |

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Lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic has affected speech and language therapy in patients with Parkinson’s disease, a survey in the United Kingdom shows.

The survey was conducted by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists and asked patients to share their experiences from the past year.

“There has been a huge impact from the pandemic on both individuals with Parkinson’s and services offering therapies to help people manage their condition,” Fiona Lindop, clinical lead for therapy at UK Parkinson’s Excellence Network, said in a Parkinson’s UK press release.

Some people with Parkinson’s have problems with their speech and communication. Speech and language therapists are healthcare professionals who specialize in all aspects of communication, including non-verbal communication such as facial expressions and body language.

They give patients tips and techniques to help address motor symptoms, such as difficulty swallowing, and communication problems they may experience.

The survey assessing the use of speech and language therapies during lockdown was completed by 97 people. About a third of the adults participating in the survey lived with Parkinson’s.

Results of the survey showed that the large majority of respondents (76%) believed these therapies improved their lives while 29% thought it improved their carer’s life.

The impact of lockdown on these therapies was felt by many participants, with more than half (52%) receiving fewer of these therapies during the first lockdown last year. Moreover, 44% of respondents did not get any therapy, while a third (33%) did not receive any in-person therapy.

Although many medical services did not stop during the pandemic, many had to be delivered differently, either using phone or video setups.

“Some speech and language therapy services have had to focus solely on swallowing problems, leaving individuals with speech problems with no access to assessment, advice and intervention,” added Lindop.

More than half (60%) of the participants found speech and language therapy to be “OK” over the phone. Some participants (20%) actually liked it, but some (20%) either did not like it or were unable to do it.

Regarding therapy on video, 57% of participants liked it. About a third (32%) found it “OK,” but some could not do it at all (11%). A third (33%) found it difficult that their therapist had to be wearing a mask during the sessions.

The survey also focused on the impact of lockdown on people’s swallowing and communication. Almost six of every 10 participants reported having dewer therapy sessions during the first lockdown, which worsened their mental health. Five in 10 respondents said it affected their social life and friendships, making their home life worse.

Six in 10 respondents said that having fewer sessions affected their family member or carer’s home life and mental health; five of 10 said it worsened their social life and friendships.

Almost half of all participants shared concerns about accessing speech and language therapy in the future.

“It is vital that services for speech and language therapy for people with Parkinson’s are restored as soon as possible, with robust policies to protect access and delivery,” Lindop said.

Those who would like to share their experience in accessing speech and language therapy during the pandemic may write to [email protected].

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