One of the most devastating effects of Alzheimer’s and dementia is the struggle to communicate. From the ability to speak clearly to struggling to form complete thoughts, dementia can make it challenging to communicate with patients.
About 5.8 million Americans have Alzheimer’s and have to deal with the debilitating effects of the disease. If we could improve how they’re able to communicate, patients could have a better quality of life. They could also better communicate about how they feel and help doctors develop treatment plans.
Speech therapy can help patients with Alzheimer’s as they struggle with communicating with dementia. Here’s a look at eight benefits of using speech therapy for these vulnerable patients.
1. Help Recovering Lost Memories
Alzheimer’s and dementia attack the areas of the brain where you store your memories. When affected by dementia, patients have trouble recalling and processing memories.
These memories can be as simple as remembering to do specific tasks throughout the day or sharing stories with loved ones.
Speech-Language Pathologists (SLPs) can work with patients to retrieve memories. Using techniques like memory books, environmental visual enhancements, spaced retrieval, and other types of external memory aids, SLPs help patients with dementia learn ways to recall daily tasks or more deep-seated memories.
When patients can remember specifics, it helps them process thoughts and communicate better.
2. Improved Muscle Function
Speaking requires the cooperation of the brain, the tongue, and multiple muscles. As Alzheimer’s progress, swallowing can become difficult for patients. SLPs help patients learn techniques to improve the mechanics of swallowing. Swallowing disorders not only affect how a patient consumes food and drink, but they can also affect speech, too.
When working with a therapist, patients often experience stronger facial and swallowing muscles. When these muscles regain functionality, speaking becomes more natural.
3. Increased Social Interaction
When a patient loses the ability to speak clearly, it can affect how they feel about interacting with others. It can be embarrassing and frustrating to socialize when you forget what you’re talking about or can’t say what you mean.
It’s not uncommon to see Alzheimer patients withdraw from friends, family, and regular social activities. Depression and loneliness can set in and cause more rapid deterioration.
As patients rebuild their ability to recall information and communicate clearly, they feel more confident. With confidence restored, patients are more likely to interact with others and reconnect with friends and loved ones.
Dementia can be a lonely illness. Helping patients improve their ability to communicate helps combat loneliness and improve quality of life.
4. Improved Treatment Ownership
As patients lose the ability to communicate, they can feel like they’re losing control over their treatment.
With cognitive speech therapy, patients can communicate how they feel and what they want. Therapists can help patients talk with doctors and caregivers. Therapists can also help doctors and guardians understand what patients say and feel.
With the patient able to give direct input to their medical provider, they feel like they can better influence the course of their treatment. Doctors and caregivers can have more confidence that they are hearing the patient and providing the best remedies to help improve a patient’s quality of life.
5. Improved Information Comprehension
Speech therapists have the skills to determine the best ways to present information to an Alzheimer’s patient. As they work with a patient, therapists can evaluate how that patient best receives and processes information regarding their care.
Therapists can’t speak for patients with dementia, but they can help doctors and caregivers understand how to provide information in a way that patients can comprehend. Speech therapists can also help doctors understand consent, or lack thereof, for treatment when communicated by a patient.
6. Changes in Behavior
When it’s tough to communicate, anyone might act out. When patients with dementia struggle to form thoughts and communicate, it can lead to poor behavior: throwing things, withdrawing, tantrums, striking others, refusing to eat, and other behavioral issues.
Speech therapy helps patients feel heard. Knowing can communicate more effectively helps patients stop the poor behaviors they use to get attention.
7. Support for Family
Speech therapists often find themselves in the role of supporting the family of a patient with dementia. Therapy techniques aren’t reserved only for patients. Family and caretakers must understand the techniques to help their loved ones communicate.
Speech therapy helps caretakers monitor the condition of patients. Working with a speech therapist helps bridge the gap between patient and loved ones as the effects of dementia continue to take hold of a patient.
8. Slower Disease Progression
Speech therapy is not only an excellent way to help improve a patient’s quality of life, but it can also slow the progression of the disease.
Engaging Alzheimer’s and dementia patients in speech therapy activities can prolong the worst effects that come along in the late stages of these diseases. If applied early after diagnosis, patients can develop strategies and techniques to aid in communication before the disease becomes debilitating.
Get Online Help For Communicating With Dementia
You don’t have to travel or take time out of your schedule to get your loved one to a speech therapy appointment. They can experience these benefits through online help.
Online speech therapy is perfect for patients that need help communicating with dementia. Our online video speech therapy provides live sessions all over the world. We also provide resources for patients to practice at home between sessions.
If you have a loved one who has dementia, let us help! Contact us for a free introductory call.