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Speech Therapy Group Ideas For SNFs

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Speech therapy groups in skilled nursing facilities can be a highly beneficial addition to a patient’s plan of care for various reasons. First and foremost, they foster a sense of community and support among patients facing similar challenges. Sharing experiences and struggles within a group setting can be incredibly comforting and motivating. It creates a platform for patients to relate to one another, reducing feelings of isolation often associated with speech and swallowing disorders.

Speech therapy groups can enhance the efficiency of therapy sessions. Group settings allow for increased practice and engagement, as patients can learn from one another and observe different techniques. This peer learning dynamic can be particularly effective, especially when working on communication skills and cognitive function.

In addition to the therapeutic benefits, these groups also help improve socialization and overall well-being. Many patients in skilled nursing facilities may experience loneliness or reduced social interactions. By participating in speech therapy groups, they have the opportunity to form connections and establish meaningful relationships with fellow residents.

In fact, Fama ME et al., (2016) demonstrates in aphasia groups, patients with severe non-fluent aphasia tend to initiate more communication with more treatment modalities and communicate for social closeness. Groups can be a great functional bridge to generalize learning from individual sessions into community activities, even with patients who have severe deficits.

Here are some suggestions for speech therapy group ideas to facilitate in your SNF. All of these groups can target a variety of goals for patients.

Cooking Groups

In the past, I used cooking groups as a part of functional cognitive therapy for many patients. Cooking groups were always one of my favorite parts about working in SNFs. I have so many fun stories about cooking with patients. Including the time I forgot to put the lid on the blender and turned it on. (Oops!)

To form a cooking group, you start by gathering 2-4 patients in the kitchen and giving them a recipe to complete, as well as individual roles.

Tasks in the cooking group can address all areas of cognitive and language functioning. From reading a recipe to safely navigating the kitchen, there are a lot of skills to address in a functional kitchen group.

You can address cognitive skills such as attention, sequencing, visuospatial, problem-solving, and executive functioning.

Language goals can be targeted for verbal expression, auditory comprehension, and reading comprehension. The group can also address physical and occupational therapy goals if you co-treat with a PT or OT.

One of the most fun parts of the cooking group is the reward! At the end of the group, you have a snack that your patients can eat or share with their families.

Dysphagia Group

Dysphagia is one of the less creative facets of SLP intervention to target both individually and in a group. However, it can be beneficial to work on dysphagia exercises in a group setting to improve the motivation and participation of patients.

You can have patients work on chin tuck against resistance, expiratory muscle strength training (EMST), and other appropriate dysphagia exercises in the group setting.

A dysphagia group can also be a great place to review safe swallow strategies and the importance of oral care. If there are patients that need practice with functional use of safe swallow strategies, you can coordinate a dysphagia group at a mealtime.

a group of adults doing a group therapy session with a clinician

Cards/Board Games

I love cards and board games as functional therapy materials because they are familiar to the patient and can be highly rewarding. However, it can be difficult to perform individual therapy with cards and board games, because you as the clinician have to be a playing partner, plus give prompts to the patient and collecting data.

In come groups! A speech therapy group is the perfect opportunity to use cards and games with patients and give the patients the level of prompting and support they need to make the task therapeutic.

Some of my favorite games for therapy include 500 Rummy, Bananagrams, Guess Who, Memory, and Connect 4.

Aphasia Group

In aphasia therapy, it is important to address natural communication. Aphasia research over the last 20 years indicates that groups play an effective role in improving communication and can be used in addition to individual treatment.

As the clinician leading the group, you can prepare several topics to discuss over the course of the group. You could start out casually, by having the patients introduce themselves and say a little bit about themselves. Then, you can provide topics to engage conversation among group members.

Research by Lee, J., Azios, J. (2019) suggests that it is helpful to be prepared in advance with topics of conversation and multimodal communication tools for your patients with severe deficits. Also, try to provide open-ended questions that encourage communication.

If you need help with conversation starters, Tactus Therapy has a conversation app and some great tips for running Aphasia group therapy sessions.

Finally, make the group an open place where patients feel safe to express themselves. This study determined that the group facilitator plays a large role in whether or not persons with aphasia engage in the group or not.

Sample group chat topics:

  • Current events
  • Favorite books or movies
  • A favorite recipe
  • Favorite vacation memories of a place they would love to go
  • Hobbies
  • Helpful technology and apps
  • Art/music

Craft Group

Who says therapy has to be all business?

We can do functional tasks, like making crafts, and turn them into therapeutic activities. Craft groups are especially fun around the holidays. Here, you can make a holiday style craft for the patient to decorate their room with.

To organize a craft group, I start by determining how the directions are going to be provided. If you are working on reading comprehension or visuospatial goals, you could give written directions. If you are working on auditory comprehension, you could provide auditory directions only. The patients can then follow the directions to make the craft and the therapist is there to provide prompting.

There are a variety of goals you can address with making crafts.

This includes basic direction following to more complex sequencing and executive functioning goals.

You can also target reading and auditory comprehension, as well as verbal and written expression. As you set up the craft group, you can intentionally leave items out of reach. This facilitates group members asking other members to pass and share items.

Then, as the patients are making crafts, it is a great time to address divided attention. You can engage in functional communication/conversation and see if the patient can perform divided attention tasks, such as having a conversation while working on the craft.

You can also create environmental distractions, such as a loud TV/radio, and provide feedback to help the patient work with distractions.

Conclusions on Speech Therapy Groups in SNFs

Ultimately, speech therapy groups are a holistic approach that addresses not only the clinical aspects of speech and communication but also the emotional and social needs of patients in skilled nursing facilities. These groups promote a well-rounded and supportive environment that contributes to a more comprehensive and fulfilling recovery process.

Do you have any suggestions for speech therapy group ideas? Drop them in the comments!

References:

Fama ME., Baron CR., Hatfield B., Turkeltaub PE. (2016) Group therapy as a social context for aphasia recovery: a pilot, observational study in an acute rehabilitation hospital. Top Stroke Rehabil. doi: 10.1080/10749357.2016.1155277.

Lee, J., Azios, J. (2019) Facilitator Behaviors Leading to Engagement and Disengagement in Aphasia Conversation Groups. American Journal of Speech Language Pathology. doi.org/10.1044/2019_AJSLP-CAC48-18-0220

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