Re-thinking the Use of AAC in Acute Care Settings Patients in acute or critical care settings often experience significant difficulties communicating with nurses, doctors, family members, and loved ones due to cognitive, motor, and/or emotional barriers that lead to feelings of frustration and isolation. These “voiceless” patients report having experienced feelings of anxiety, insecurity, and panic during their ... Article
Article  |   December 01, 2006
Re-thinking the Use of AAC in Acute Care Settings
Author Affiliations & Notes
  • Debora Downey
    The University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA
  • Richard Hurtig
    The University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA
Article Information
Augmentative & Alternative Communication / Articles
Article   |   December 01, 2006
Re-thinking the Use of AAC in Acute Care Settings
SIG 12 Perspectives on Augmentative and Alternative Communication, December 2006, Vol. 15, 3-8. doi:10.1044/aac15.4.3
SIG 12 Perspectives on Augmentative and Alternative Communication, December 2006, Vol. 15, 3-8. doi:10.1044/aac15.4.3
Patients in acute or critical care settings often experience significant difficulties communicating with nurses, doctors, family members, and loved ones due to cognitive, motor, and/or emotional barriers that lead to feelings of frustration and isolation. These “voiceless” patients report having experienced feelings of anxiety, insecurity, and panic during their hospitalization or stint on mechanical ventilation (Bergbom-Engberg, 1989; Happ, 2001). The nursing literature notes the use of non-vocal behaviors (i.e., mouthing words, gestures, and head nods) as primary modes of communication used by critical care patients (Carroll, 2004; Etchels et al., 2003; Robillard, 1994). Variations in the choice of communication, as well as the inconsistency of nurses' and family members' abilities to lip read or interpret gestures, can breed confusion and frustration for critically ill patients, families, and caregivers, during what may be viewed by all, as the most critical period of the patient's life (Happ; Menzel, 1994). While most medical personnel believe that these feelings of frustration and/or anxiety are temporary and limited to the patient's hospital stay, there is research which indicates that there can be lasting psychological effects past their hospitalization (Etchels et al.). Although communication complications and limitations of the critically ill have been long ignored, it is emerging as a treatment priority for critical care units (Dowden, Beukelman, & Lossing, 1986; Menzel).
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