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A Basic Function—Swallowing—Helped by New Therapy at WWM

“We have found, particularly among our stroke patients, that VitalStim® therapy has really produced outstanding results,” said Marion Swencki, RN, NHA, administrator of Wayne Woodlands, a 121-bed skilled nursing facility in Waymart. Wayne Woodlands is the long-term care arm of Wayne Memorial Health System.

“For example, it’s helped some of our patients come off feeding tubes, which vastly improves their quality of life,” said Swencki, “others have moved from restricted diets to full oral diets and even gained weight.”

Difficulty swallowing or “dysphagia” affects 15 million Americans, primarily the elderly. It is generally caused by a neurological disorder or event, such as a stroke, degenerative neurological diseases, or head and neck cancer. Without proper management, dysphagia can lead to aspiration, pneumonia, chronic malnutrition, severe life-threatening dehydration, an increased rate of infection, longer hospital stays, long term institutional care and even death.

The elderly are more prone to dysphagia for several reasons: the high prevalence of diseases such as advanced Alzheimers or stroke; the deterioration of the muscles and glands used to swallow; and the taking of medications that may affect swallowing functions.

A typical patient receives 12-15, one-hour VitalStim® therapy sessions via a portable, dual-channel electrotherapy system. Some facilities use an alternative device called Experia which also offers biofeedback functions to engage the patient during the therapy and make him an active participant in his recovery.

“By combining VitalStim® and traditional therapy, we’re basically helping the brain re-map the swallow,” said James Dessoye CCC-SLP, the Wayne Woodlands speech therapist who administers the therapy. “We’re uniting swallowing exercises with the power of electrical stimulation to help strengthen and restore function.”

Swencki is delighted with the new therapy. “We see so many people with this affliction,” she said, “and now we can offer them an effective and innovative treatment.”

For more information about Wayne Woodlands Manor, call (570) 488-7130 or visit





Photo Caption: Speech Therapist James Dessoye treats Wayne Woodlands Manor resident Elvira Kellam with non-invasive electrical stimulation, a new technology that helps swallowing problems.


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