When we think about speech therapy, most of us think of it as a resource primarily aimed at young children. While it is true that speech therapy can have major benefits on the developing minds of pre and school-aged children, speech therapy is something that can be beneficial for people of any age.
If you’re wondering if it’s too late to improve your communication skills through speech therapy, it’s not! There is no age that is too late to work with a speech and language pathologist, as they are experts in helping people of all ages improve their speech, language, and communication skills, from toddlers to children, teens, adults, and seniors.
Speech concerns can arise at any age from various causes, and speech therapists design each treatment plan based on the diagnosis, age, other underlying medical conditions, specific goals and challenges, and more.
If you think you might benefit from speech therapy, don’t wait to seek help. Getting started is as easy as scheduling your free introductory call today!
How Effective is Speech Therapy for Adults?
Speech therapy has proven to be incredibly effective for adults. Still, there is no one answer for how effective it can be. How effective speech therapy is for adults depends on several factors which are:
- The Individual’s Diagnosis
- How Long Since the Diagnosis
- The Severity of the Diagnosis
- The Frequency and Duration of Speech Therapy Appointments
- The Commitment and Determination of the Individual
- Degree and Consistency of Caregiver and/or Family Involvement
- Daily Practice and Completion of Exercises and Implementation of Strategies Assigned by the SLP
How these factors relate to each other can have major effects on the success of a speech therapy treatment plan. For speech therapy to be successful for adults, all of the above variables must be considered.
What Causes Garbled Speech in the Elderly?
There are many reasons that you might notice changes or loss of communication skills in an elderly loved one. While some minor changes to communication skills and vocal tone are a normal part of aging due to weakening muscles in the face, jaw, and larynx, more significant changes might be a symptom of a speech impairment. Some of the most common speech impairments in the elderly include:
Dysarthria – Dysarthria refers to slurred or disjointed speech and is typically caused by muscle weakness surrounding the lips, vocal folds, tongue, face, and occasionally the diaphragm. Dysarthria is commonly the result of a brain-related injury, brain disorder, or a condition affecting the muscles, such as Parkinson’s or Multiple Sclerosis.
Vocal Cord or Throat Injury – An injury to the vocal cords or throat caused by polyps, cancer, other nodules, or specific medications can cause garbled or unintelligible speech.
In a more severe situation, an elderly person might lose their ability to speak completely. If you are concerned about your loved one’s declining communication skills, arrange for a speech and language evaluation by scheduling your free introductory call today!
When to Get Assistance for Speech Problems in the Elderly
Speech problems in elderly people often develop and progress over time, making them more pronounced as time passes. In the early stages of speech problems, the changes in their speech may be very subtle and even unnoticeable.
Some of the most common symptoms that indicate your loved one needs medical and/or neurological support include:
- Vocal Changes
- Rapid Hearing Loss
- Cognitive Changes
- Difficulty Swallowing
Any changes that occur suddenly are a cause for concern and are a good indication that your loved one should seek medical help.
Other changes, such as increased vocal hoarseness, changes in speech or voice patterns, and slurred speech, are indicators that your loved one would benefit from time with an experienced speech and language pathologist.
Gradual hearing loss is a normal part of aging, but when we lose our hearing ability, it can have significant impacts on how we process words and communicate with others.
Cognitive changes and changes in cognitive skills are also a regular part of aging. But, things such as memory loss or other conditions causing cognitive decline can make it more difficult to understand words, sentences, tone of voice, non-verbal communication, grammar, and idioms or turns of phrase, which in turn can affect the individual’s ability to communicate effectively.
How Can I Help My Elderly Loved One with Speech?
As a supportive and compassionate family caregiver, it’s essential to recognize that many elements of a senior’s general health and well-being are outside of your control despite your best intentions and efforts. One thing you can do, however, is help your elderly loved one manage their difficulties with communication by monitoring and altering your own habits to focus on doing what you can to make communication easier each day.
Here are a few simple tips for family caregivers to improve their communication with elderly loved ones:
Be Open and Compassionate – Remember that it is normal for your loved one to have good and bad days. Allow them time to communicate with you, and be thoughtful as you listen and respond.
Practice Active Listening – Active listening can be a highly powerful tool, and it involves maintaining eye contact and using non-verbal cues to show that you are engaged and your loved one has your attention.
Use Non-Verbal Cues – Body language, tone of voice, and other non-verbal cues are highly important for communication, especially with someone who is experiencing challenges with their speech. Use cues such as nodding and smiling as you listen, as well as take notice of your loved one’s body language and tone of voice.
Keep it Simple – Speak clearly using short, simple sentences as much as you can. Do your best to focus on talking about one topic at a time, and be sure to finish your thoughts before moving on to another idea or topic.
Include Names and Details – Using names instead of pronouns will help your loved one understand and orient themselves in the conversation.
Eliminate Distractions Around You – Make sure you are in a quiet, calm space when you interact with your loved one. Mute or turn off any music, television, or radio before you begin your conversation.
What Treatment Is Available for Speech Problems in the Elderly?
It is important to seek treatment for your loved one as soon as you notice any changes or difficulties with their speech and communication. The longer you wait to seek support, the faster the problems will progress. Whether the speech problems are the result of an underlying health condition or simply due to the natural effects of aging, a well-rounded treatment plan will include speech therapy.
During speech therapy sessions, the individual will work with their speech-language pathologist to improve their communication and language processing abilities. This often includes physical exercises that strengthen the muscles utilized in speech, as well as cognitive exercises.
If you are noticing that your elderly loved one is struggling to communicate, support is available. Get started with speech therapy by scheduling your free introductory call today!