The Lingraphica Blog

Study: Benefits of Combining Online Language Therapy and Volunteer Care Extenders in Long-Term Care Facilities

Jan 22, 2018 | by Richard Steele, PhD

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Lingraphica co-founder and chief scientist, Dr. Richard Steele, summarizes the recent findings from a collaborative study conducted by clinicians at Hallmark Rehabilitation Services with guidance and support from Lingraphica. The study documents the important ways that long-term care (LTC) facilities and their clients may benefit from combining the use of interactive, online language therapy with the engagement of volunteer care extenders to strengthen Functional Maintenance Programs (FMPs). Read on for the details and study conclusions.


This study considers key areas of concern to LTC operators, including improving health care outcomes, raising stakeholder satisfaction, modernizing and conforming operations, and promoting profitability.

The study analyzed data from residents at four Hallmark LTC facilities, located in CA, TX, KS, and MO. In each facility, two residents identified as being at likely risk for functional decline were selected for participation. For these individuals, staff SLPs established personalized FMPs that incorporated online materials from the TalkPath Therapy app, and a volunteer care extender was trained to assist residents in technology use and support. Data analyzed included ratings from the Minimum Data Set on Mood and Cognitive Functioning gathered routinely each month on LTC residents, as well as ratings of expressive speech, receptive speech, and memory from ASHA’s National Outcome Measurement System (NOMS) aphasia assessments. Mean duration of participants’ involvement was 10.0 weeks (range: 4.4 – 13.0 wks.).

Interviews and data analyses revealed positive outcomes. LTC administrators liked having advanced tools for residents’ use that provided interactive therapy. Family members and other volunteer care extenders appreciated the structured pathways and stimulating materials. Residents engaged in the study’s FMP activities readily and attentively. By study’s end, expressive language and memory had both moved to higher qualitative levels of functioning with trends towards statistical significance. Residents’ mental status and depression remained stable, avoiding deterioration. Costs also were stable, since no charge was incurred for either app or volunteer care extenders.

For a pilot study of relatively brief duration and modest sample size, these findings are promising. They show that advanced tools can provide benefits that are appreciated by LTC residents, clinical staff, family, and volunteer care extenders alike. The results suggest the possibility of improving important aspects of residents’ cognitive functioning, e.g., expressive and receptive speech, and functioning; and they suggest that these benefits need not add to facilities operational costs. Follow-on research may refine our understandings of how best to realize these benefits across stakeholders.

For further reading: R.D. Steele, L. Haynes, L. Wheeler. 2017.  Technology benefits to elderly with infirmities in functional maintenance programs.  Assistive Technology Outcomes and Benefits. Vol. 11, pp. 47-57, ISBN 1938-7261.