8 Ways Speech Therapy Can Ease Communicating with Dementia Patients

8 Ways Speech Therapy Can Ease Communicating with Dementia Patients

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.

Communication Skills: Speech Therapy as a Treatment for Dementia

Communication Skills: Speech Therapy as a Treatment for Dementia

Each year, there are 9.9 million new cases of dementia. This disorder poses financial strife for both patients and our health care systems. Its economic impact is huge- the fight against dementia costs nearly $818 billion per year.

Many patients opt for rehabilitation or occupational therapy, in addition to cognition-enhancing medication. An increasingly popular option of the treatment for dementia is speech therapy.

Learning how to effectively communicate with others is imperative for dementia patients. But, speech therapy doesn’t just treat lost speech and language function, as many think.

It also improves memory loss deficits and many other cognitive functions. Let’s take a further look into why speech therapy is a viable treatment option.

What is Speech Therapy?

At its core, speech therapy is an intervention service focused on improving both verbal and non-verbal language. There are two basic components that a speech pathologist teaches.

  1. Addressing articulation, fluency, and voice-volume recognition through mouth coordination
  2. How to use and express language through a variety of traditional and alternative communication forms (i.e. written, body, sign, social media, computer, etc.)

Dementia patients tend to seek speech therapy to improve their current functions. It’s common for speech-related issues to progress with the onset of dementia.

But, in some instances, patients with Alzheimer’s and other dementias speak just fine. They still often seek an individualized therapy to combat their cognitive deficits.

Stages of Dementia

Before we discuss the benefits of speech therapy, let’s look at the three stages of dementia.

Early Stage

Gradual confusion and mood/personality changes mark the early signs of dementia. It’s common for patients to become irritable or frustrated over unusual things. You also may notice your loved one to develop anxious and/or antisocial tendencies.

Routine chores become far more taxing, as initiative slowly declines. Not only does it take longer for patients to complete tasks, but they’re also less focused to finish.

Patients tend to get lost more easily, so going out in public also becomes more challenging. You may also notice your loved one is commonly misplacing their personal items. They could accuse others of stealing or hiding and grow more irritable.

Middle Stage

The middle stage of dementia is more of an ongoing progression of early symptoms. You’ll notice their confusion is much more evident than before. Their memory loss has heightened, so they’re forgetting even the most recent events.

Dementia symptoms are much more prevalent in the late afternoons and nighttime. You may find your loved one struggles more right before bed. It’s common for them to be suspicious, irritable, fidgety, and restless.

They start forgetting who their family members and close friends are in this stage. They may be more talkative towards strangers or mistake strangers as someone they know.

Final Stage

The final stage of dementia is very distressing for both patients and caretakers. Most patients have lost the ability to recognize those closest to them. They may even not recognize themselves in the mirror.

Without treatment, patients may lose the ability to communicate with others. You’ll notice they hardly use words to interact, but rather groans, moans, and screams.

Even with a good diet, it’s common for them to lose weight. They grow self-conscious about their eating habits because they’re more fidgety and shaky. They may also sleep more than usual.

Speech Therapy Treatment for Dementia

Dementia affects a variety of cognitive functions, including memory, attention, and visual perception. This accumulation of symptoms often leads to impaired judgment, disorientation, and even depression.

Speech therapy is a great way for patients to maintain a level of independence for longer. It helps stimulate cognitive ability through activities related to the underlying cognitive domain.

Individuals working with a speech pathologist learn how to compensate for their deficits. They learn to modify their environment, which is crucial. This helps them adapt to the ongoing cognitive changes caused by dementia.

There are several different memory regurgitation techniques such as spaced retrieval, errorless learning. Many dementia patients also rely on the use of memory Books and other types of external memory aids.

Speech-language pathologists can also assess how a patient eats, drinks, and swallows. If there appears to be any dysfunction, they’ll offer management strategies for mealtime.

They can also gauge the individual’s capacity to consent to treatment and care. Caretakers should rely on this person to communicate relevant information to the patient. This ensures they’re able to process the information as accurate as possible.

Caregivers of Dementia Patients

If you care for someone with dementia, you could also learn quite a bit from a speech therapist. They offer support to caretakers who wish to learn how to manage their loved one’s symptoms.

Learning how to communicate with your loved one can make a world of difference. After all, dementia patients’ behavior is hardly random. It’s often triggered by specific conditions related to their direct environment.

Improved communication among patient and caretaker can also lead to a better quality of life on both ends. It minimizes stress and anxiety and fosters a stronger sense of peer relations.

Final Thoughts on Speech Therapy

Dementia is a heartbreaking condition that claims millions of new victims each year. Patients eventually lose the ability to communicate and use other cognitive functions. That’s why it’s imperative they find the right treatment.

Great Speech offers videoconferencing technology to deliver individualized therapy sessions. Those seeking treatment for dementia no longer have the need to go into an office. They can tap into the power of speech therapy right from their homes.

Schedule a free consultation with one of our team members today!