September 21 marks World Alzheimer’s Day, an opportunity to educate and learn about the disease – and how providers such as speech therapists can aid and improve the quality of life for those affected by it.
For the nearly 6 million people with the disease, some therapies can help manage and stall its symptoms. One of the early indicators of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is difficulty recalling words or finding the right word. A loss of language fluency, distractibility, forgetfulness, confusion, and depression problems with following conversations are common telltale signs.
Such symptoms can also drive social isolation, a health threat to older people. Social isolation increases the risk of premature death on par with the risk from smoking, obesity and physical inactivity. Social isolation also increases the risk of dementia by about 50%, a dangerous loop to the quality of life for older Americans.
How Speech Therapists Help People with AD
After a doctor diagnoses AD, speech therapists can work with patients and their families or caregivers to help them develop strategies to reduce the impact of the symptoms of AD’s worsening later stages. Some of these strategies include:
- Frequent Repetition of important information;
- Using written words or pictures to help carry out tasks;
- Making “memory books” to help remember personal information; and
- Educating family members and caregivers on how to communicate better with the person with AD.
Benefits of Virtual Speech Therapy
The adoption of technology by Americans in the oldest age group has grown “markedly” over the past decade. Virtual speech therapy is beneficial for people with AD as it makes care more accessible, lessens caregiver burden and stress, and improves quality of life for those who prefer the familiar surroundings of home instead of traveling to brick and mortar rehab sites.
Just as virtual speech therapy has progressed so has its treatment for patients who have AD, the medical community is keenly focused on finding a way to slow and even reverse the condition.
World Alzheimer’s Day is the ideal time to show our support to AD patients and their caregivers and let them know that speech therapists are here to help.