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Speech-Language Pathologist Focuses on Helping Patients Meet Their Goals

There’s nothing more gratifying for Amber Pombo, MS, CCC-SLP, speech-language pathologist, than helping a patient reach their goals — whether it’s overcoming a swallowing disorder to eat a cheeseburger again or learn new ways to communicate with loved ones when speech is no longer possible. 

She joined the home health care team at VNA Care nearly a decade ago after practicing in the acute inpatient rehabilitation facility setting. Speech-language pathologists help people with speech, language, communication, swallowing, and cognitive issues improve their function and learn strategies for managing declining or lost skills.

“I get to see patients in their environment and what they’re dealing with in real life,” said Amber. “You can tell people what they need to do or what they should do when they’re receiving inpatient care, but then they go home and things can change drastically.”

Amber’s patients are facing numerous diagnoses, including brain injury, stroke, Parkinson’s, head and neck cancer, ALS, and multiple sclerosis. Many people don’t realize that speech-language pathologists are also able to help patients who experienced cognitive changes. She’s visited dementia patients who are upset when they don’t remember the day of the week. They will ask loved ones over and over for the answer, which can become stressful for those family caregivers.

“I’ll provide strategies to help patients figure out the answer on their own. Something like an orientation clock, having a daily routine on a white board, or other functional things can help the patient orient themselves and feel better. This can also provide some relief to their family caregivers too,” said Amber.

“Being a speech therapist lets me work with people with medical issues but also have a connection with them, the therapy part. I like being more than a diagnostician. Being able to go into someone’s home, assess where they’re having trouble, and then working with them one-on-one is very satisfying,” she added.