Many people may not realize, but in addition to 24/7 skilled nursing services, some nursing facilities also offer rehabilitation, including speech therapy.
Payson Care Center in Payson, Arizona, is one of these centers, and at the facility, speech therapy involves more than simply teaching people how to speak.
Vicki Jensen-Vallejo has been the speech-language pathologist at Payson Care Center for three years and has been a speech therapist since 1991. She earned her master’s degree in communication disorders from Governors State University in University Park, Illinois.
“Like most therapists, I was drawn to this field because I enjoy working with people,” said Jensen-Vallejo. “There is a satisfaction obtained when you see a person get better and you know you were able to help them in that process. It is fascinating to meet people from different backgrounds and each with their own story.”
Jensen-Vallejo treats patients with a variety of diagnoses. The most common ones are dysphagia (trouble swallowing), which can happen as a result of a stroke or neurological condition; cognitive deficits (trouble with memory and problem solving that can be a result of numerous health issues); aphasia (difficulty speaking, reading and writing after a stroke); and dysarthria (difficulty producing sounds and words due to muscle weakness).
“I like the challenge of discovering what motivates each individual and what techniques help them to achieve their goals,” said Jensen-Vallejo. “Every person is different, and finding a method that best works for that person is fascinating.”
Jensen-Vallejo has two specialty certifications that particularly help patients. She is certified in VitalStim®, electrical stimulation for swallowing muscles. This helps patients who are at risk of choking to learn to swallow safely and be able to eat and drink normal foods and liquids again. She is also certified in LSVT LOUD™, a program that focuses on improving speech intelligibility for patients with stroke or Parkinson’s disease.
“This job is never boring and provides me with a lifelong opportunity of learning and compassion for others,” said Jensen-Vallejo.
For more information about speech therapy at Payson Care Center, call 928-474-6896.