Dysphagia care for adults in the community setting commands a different approach: perspectives of speech–language therapists
Simone R. Howells, Petrea L. Cornwell, Elizabeth C. Ward & Pim Kuipers
Background: Descriptions of community‐based speech–language therapy (SLT) dysphagia practices and services are underrepresented in the research literature, despite the prevalence of dysphagia in the community. Owing to a globally ageing population and government drives to support people to remain living at home rather than in hospital or aged care, there is a growing need for SLT services to be responsive to the needs of clients living at home in the community, referred to in this study as ‘community‐based clients’. Exploration of current SLT services and dysphagia care practices for this population may identify ways services can be designed and enhanced to better meet the needs of clients and carers.
Aims: To explore the nature (i.e., characteristics) of dysphagia services and SLT clinical practices for adults with dysphagia living at home in the community.
Methods & Procedures: Using a qualitative descriptive approach positioned within an explanatory sequential mixed methods design, this study explored SLT services and practices for adults with dysphagia living in the community to explain further and elaborate on findings from an earlier quantitative study. A total of 15 SLTs working with community‐based clients with dysphagia were recruited using purposive representative sampling. Content analysis was used to explore the data.
Outcomes & Results: The overarching theme of community commands a different approach and was illustrated by three subthemes that highlighted how and why a different approach to dysphagia care in the community setting was necessary: (1) skills and mindset require adaptation in the community context; (2) values and approaches are different in the community context; and (3) organizational influences impact service delivery in the community context. From the data, it is apparent that the work undertaken in the community setting differs from dysphagia care in other settings and requires adapted SLT skills, values and approaches that encompass holistic care, client autonomy and carer engagement. SLT practices are also informed by organizational influences such as policies and resourcing, which in some services were enablers, while for others these presented challenges.
Conclusions & Implications: Community‐based SLT services must continue to foster flexible, responsive practices by SLTs to ensure the needs of clients and carers are met now and in future.