Walking for Talking

Walking for Talking

From left: Katherine Mayer, Speech Therapist and Leader of Stroke Support Group; Judith McMillan, Walking for Talking chairperson; Dotti Thompson, OTR/L, Rehab Manager for UH Geauga, Geneva, & Conneaut Rehab Services.

When stroke robbed Ted McMillan of his speech four years ago, his wife, Judith, searched for the best rehabilitative care in the region. She found it at UH Geauga Medical Center’s Outpatient Rehabilitation Services and Aquatic Center, located within the YMCA facility in Chardon. With the help of Speech Therapist Katherine Mayer, Ted re-learned the alphabet and can now read simple sentences. His speech continues to improve.

The McMillans are lucky. Long-term care insurance, purchased before Ted’s stroke, allowed Ted to continue therapy long after his Medicare benefits maxed out. But most stroke patients are not so fortunate. Once they exhaust insurance or Medicare benefits, patients typically quit speech therapy, often just as they begin to make progress.

“Once we started going to a stroke support group, we realized how many people plateau or make very slow progress because they can’t afford therapy anymore,” Judith said.

She and Ted wanted to help so they donated iPads and a work station to the therapy center so that patients could use apps designed for language skills. Judith then organized a fundraiser, Walking for Talking, with proceeds benefiting a start-up program called Talk More. For $25 per month, patients in the Talk More program work in small groups with a part-time rehabilitation aide who comes twice a week, six hours a day. They learn to use the iPads and how to access therapy programs that will help them continue to improve their language skills.

“One of our new clients cried at the end of his first day when he realized he would get more therapy with this program,” said Dotti Thompson, OTR/L, Rehab Manager at UH Geauga, Geneva and Conneaut.

The first Walking for Talking drew more than 70 walkers and raised $12,000. Judith and Katherine, the speech therapist, wrote letters and made phone calls to secure sponsorships and donations. The second-annual Walking for Talking takes place on Saturday, May 14 at Chapin Forest in Lake Metroparks. Once again, all proceeds will help fund the Talk More program, which will continue to exist as long as there is funding, said Dotti.

“We don’t want anyone to lose skills they’ve gained. They really work hard to get to where they are,” she said. View the May 14 Walking for Talking event details.