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Editor's e-Note
Patients requiring use of mechanical ventilators have difficulty communicating—a problem that’s made worse by the fact that patients affected by coronavirus likely do not have family members present to advocate for them. According to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, augmentative and alternative communication, which “includes the use of gestures, picture and word boards, and messages on computers or phones,” has an important role to play in helping patients with COVID-19 communicate more effectively with providers about their conditions and their desires.

In addition to reading our e-newsletter, be sure to visit Today’s Geriatric Medicine’s website at, where you’ll find news and information that’s relevant and reliable. We welcome your feedback at Follow Today’s Geriatric Medicine on Facebook and Twitter, too.

— Kate Jackson, editor
e-News Exclusive
New Methods of Communication Needed During COVID-19 Crisis

Augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) can play an important role helping patients with COVID-19 communicate their condition and wishes with their medical teams. AAC includes the use of gestures, picture and word boards, and messages on computers or phones to help people communicate more effectively. The need for AAC is heightened by the fact that patients in acute care may not have loved ones around who would otherwise advocate for their care.

Many patients with COVID-19 in serious condition require a mechanical ventilator to help them breathe while in acute care. Although this is intended to be a life-saving measure, ventilator usage can result in complications—short and long term. This includes a person’s ability to speak, something that can have serious repercussions if not appropriately addressed, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA).

“It is essential that everyone have the ability to communicate at all times—and be provided an alternative method of communication if they cannot use speech,” says Theresa Rodgers, MA, CCC-SLP, 2020 ASHA president. “Not only do people deserve to have their basic needs met, such as to communicate that they are in pain or request that a loved one is called, but patients may be more likely to have a serious adverse medical event if they cannot communicate with their health care providers.”

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