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Ready for Discharge, but Are They Ready to Go Home? Examining Neighborhood-Level Disadvantage as a Marker of the Social Exposome and the Swallowing Care Process in a Retrospective Cohort of Inpatients With Dementia.

PURPOSE: Socioeconomically disadvantaged areas are more resource poor, impacting adherence to swallowing care recommendations. Neighborhood-level disadvantage metrics, such as the Area Deprivation Index (ADI), allow for examination of social determinants of health (SDOH) in a precise region. We examined ADI in a cohort of persons living with dementia (PLWD) to determine representation of those residing in areas of socioeconomic disadvantage (high ADI), distribution of swallowing care provided, and frequency of SDOH-related counseling or resource linking prior to discharge.

METHOD: A retrospective chart abstraction was performed for all inpatients with a diagnosis of dementia ( N = 204) seen by the Swallow Service at a large academic hospital in 2014. State ADI Deciles 1 (least) to 10 (most socioeconomic disadvantage) and decile groups (1-3, 4-7, and 8-10) were compared with the surrounding county. Frequency of videofluoroscopic swallowing evaluations (VFSEs) based on ADI deciles was recorded. To determine whether SDOH-related counseling or resource linking occurred for those in high ADI (8-10) neighborhoods, speech-language pathology notes, and discharge summaries were reviewed. Descriptive statistics, independent samples t tests, and one-way analysis of variance were calculated.

RESULTS: ADI was significantly higher in this cohort ( M = 3.84, SD = 2.58) than in the surrounding county ( M = 2.79, SD = 1.88, p = .000). There was no significant difference in utilization of swallowing services across decile groups ( p = .88). Although the majority (85%) in high ADI areas was recommended diet modifications or alternative nutrition likely requiring extra resources, there was no documentation indicating that additional SDOH resource linking or counseling was provided.

CONCLUSIONS: These findings raise important questions about the role and responsibility of speech-language pathologists in tailoring swallowing services to challenges posed by the lived environment, particularly in socioeconomically disadvantaged areas. This underscores the need for further research to understand and address gaps in postdischarge support for PLWD in high-ADI regions and advocate for more equitable provision of swallowing care.

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