Most people with COVID-19 recover completely; however, some people, referred to as COVID long-haulers, can have lingering side effects. These perplexing side effects may include cognitive deficits, shortness of breath, and speech and swallowing difficulties. Fortunately, speech therapy can often help resolve these issues and restore a person’s quality of life.
“Most patients who experience difficulties after COVID have been hospitalized and just haven’t fully recovered,” explains Alissa Outhier, a speech and language pathologist at St. Mary’s Center for Rehabilitation. “When a patient is referred to me, I perform an initial evaluation to determine the best modifications and treatments for the symptoms the patient is experiencing. Some patients might have memory challenges which make it difficult to process information as quickly as they used to. I can work with these people to improve memory, problem solving and organizational skills through cognitive retraining,” says Outhier.
Rehablilitation Services at St. Mary's Regional
For more information on outpatient speech therapy for COVID-19, please call the Center for Rehabilitation at 580-237-8278.
For those who are hoarse or have a breathy quality to their speech due to weak breath support caused by being on a ventilator or having another condition, Outhier teaches exercises to strengthen the muscles used for sound production. Swallowing difficulties can also be improved by performing strengthening exercises.
Most patients will come for outpatient speech therapy twice a week for about a month, says Outhier. If you or someone you know is experiencing these post-COVID challenges, she recommends contacting your primary care physician who can make the referral to a speech therapist.