• Meet Paradigm Health’s Newest Speech Therapist

    September 12, 2019 | Blog
  • Meet Paradigm Health Speech Therapist, Heidi Clark

    Heidi Clark, Speech Therapist

    Heidi Clark, Speech Therapist

    Some people say caregiving is a calling. Paradigm Health’s new speech therapist Heidi Clark can attest to the fact life-changing events propelled her onto an unexpected career path with caregiving as its focus.   

    “I was a competitive gymnast and a physical education major at Ball State University when my grandmother suffered a stroke,” reflects Clark. “A week later, my father passed away and I traveled to visit my grandmother in Washington to tell her the news of my father’s passing. During my time with her, I watched my grandmother navigate the stroke recovery protocol and I knew in that moment that I was drawn to this type of work and, more importantly, to serving the geriatric population.”  

    Clark returned to Ball State and changed her major to speech therapy. She has a master’s in speech pathology and for 29 years and counting has been immersed in helping patients regain their communicative and cognitive skills. She and her husband owned their own company for many years providing First Steps services for the state where she acted as clinical director for the business. Caring for others has always been at the heart of Clark’s work.

    The Role of Speech Therapy in Elder Care

    You might wonder what a speech therapist working with an older population assists a patient with. Clark says she works with patient clients who have had strokes, Parkinson’s disease, dementias, and any kind of neurological dysfunction so that the patient is on the road to regaining their voice. Whether that be enhanced communication or cognition, safety with activities of instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs), or swallowing issues.

    Sometimes IADLs are a bit more complex to regain and include activities related to independent living like fixing meals, managing money, shopping, performing light housework, or using a telephone,” shares Clark. “Usually, on my first visit with a new patient we are creating a snapshot of the individual and conducting an evaluation of where the patient is at that moment.”  

    During Clark’s initial visit she concentrates on evaluating the patient’s cognition, communication, spoken language, auditory comprehension, reading/writing, and evaluates their swallowing to make sure they have adequate airway protection. Then, based on the evaluation, Clark can prepare a plan of action and for the patient and set short-term goals. She often visits a patient a few times a week and keeps progress notes from each visit she will use to get them to their next potential.

    As a certified vital stim therapist, Clark uses a non-invasive approach to enhance a more efficient and effective swallow for patients. This therapy increases airway protection for the patient and reduces the risk of aspiration. Clark is one of very few therapists certified in vital stim and her training is crucial to recovering stroke patients and their success.

    Also certified in the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment (LSVT) for Parkinson’s patients, Clark says in combination with physical and occupational therapy the LSVT program can assist Parkinson’s patients in increasing vocal loudness and to move more safely and talk louder and stronger giving them a renewed confidence in daily activities and conversations. 

    “I really believe in treating the patient with a holistic approach,” says Clark. “Treating a patient so that they become stronger and more vital allows them to experience an enriched day-to-day life. I’m passionate about my work and the differences it can make over time. I know that is why I was so drawn to Paradigm Health. They have that same philosophy that puts a patient first and that flexibility to be with a patient for as long as it takes is refreshing and not the norm in the industry.”

    A Case of ‘Caregivers Heart’

    Clark says that when she’s not on the road to a patient or with a patient that she still has a “caregivers” heart and is heavily involved in animal rescue and often serves as a foster home for cats and dogs. Married with two adult children, when she does find a bit of time for herself, she enjoys hot yoga and staying active.

    “In both my personal and professional life, caregiving is at the heart of just about everything I do,” says Clark. “At work, I don’t see a patient’s diagnosis. I look at a new patient and their family as an opportunity to strengthen, educate and enhance day-to-day life for all of them. What is rewarding is watching the progress we can make together.”