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!