What is Alzheimer’s Disease?
Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia that was initially discovered in 1906 by Dr. Alois Alzheimer. The disease gets its name from the doctor who discovered it. The term “dementia” refers to a condition in which a person’s cognitive abilities are impaired to the point where it interferes with normal day-to-day functions.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease, meaning that it worsens over time and cannot be cured. In most cases, this disease presents among older people and causes the slow deterioration of mental functions. Alzheimer’s disease most notably affects memory and cognitive skills.
While the precise cause of this disease is still unknown, research suggests that the deterioration is the result of a combination of genetic, environmental, and lifestyle factors. If caught early, it is possible to slow the progression of the disease, and many of the symptoms can be managed with the right care and support. Speech therapy can be very helpful for someone who is struggling to communicate as a result of Alzheimer’s disease. You can get help for yourself or a loved one by scheduling your free introductory call today!
What are the Symptoms of Alzheimer’s Disease?
Because Alzheimer’s disease is progressive, the symptoms vary depending on how advanced it is.
In the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s disease, the individual may appear to be healthy but is increasingly struggling to navigate the world around them. It can take some time for the individual (and their families) to realize something is wrong. The symptoms of the mild stage of this disease can include:
- Loss of Memory
- Poor Judgment and Decision Making
- Loss of Initiative or Spontaneity
- Needing More Time to Complete Simple Tasks
- Difficulty Managing Money and Paying Bills
- Increased Aggressive or Anxious Behavior
- Losing or Misplacing Items Often (sometimes in strange places)
- Repeating Questions
- General Changes in Mood and/or Personality
- Getting Lost Easily or Wandering Off
Because these signs begin to emerge and become concerning, Alzheimer’s disease is often diagnosed at this stage.
During this stage, care and supervision requirements commonly increase. This can be difficult for family, friends, and loved ones. Symptoms of this stage may include:
- Increased Instances of Confusion and Memory Loss
- Difficulty Learning New Skills and Information
- Language Difficulties Related to Reading, Writing, and Working with Numbers
- Difficulty Related to Logical Thinking and Thought Organization
- Shortened Attention Span
- Difficulties Coping in Unfamiliar Situations
- Difficulty Executing Tasks with Multiple Steps
- Problems Recognizing Friends and Family
- Presence of Hallucinations, Delusions, and/or Paranoia
- Inappropriate or Impulsive Behavior
- Unprovoked or Inappropriate Outbursts
- Restlessness, Agitation, Tearfulness, Anxiety, and Wandering (particularly in the late afternoon or evening)
- Repetitive Movements or Statements (including occasional muscle twitches or tremors)
In most cases, once Alzheimer’s disease has progressed to the severe stage, communication skills and self-care abilities are very low, or nonexistent. Most people in this stage of the disease require round-the-clock care and may be bedridden most (or all) of the time. The symptoms of this phase of Alzheimer’s disease include:
- Inability to Communicate
- Significant Weight Loss
- Skin Infections
- Difficulty Chewing & Swallowing
- Frequent Groaning, Moaning, or Grunting
- Sleeping For Longer Periods
- Loss of Control of the Bladder and/or Bowels
- Development of Aspiration Pneumonia due to Poor Swallowing Ability
How Does Alzheimer’s Disease Affect Speech? Why Does Alzheimer’s Cause Loss of Speech?
As the disease progresses, the brain and its processes deteriorate. When the brain continues to deteriorate, speech and language processing abilities deteriorate alongside it. In a normally functioning brain, there are millions of neurons that work together to produce speech, language, and communication. In the brain of someone with Alzheimer’s disease, two proteins are produced that are toxic to the brain. As these proteins spread to other parts of the brain, the neurons begin to die and the brain shrinks over time. The hippocampus is often one of the first areas of the brain that is affected and is responsible for forming and maintaining memories. As these abilities are affected, the individual will have increasing difficulties with communication and self-care.
Speech, language, and communication problems caused by this disease are serious, and can significantly impact the quality of life of those affected. A specialized speech therapy program is one of the most valuable resources when it comes to supporting an individual with Alzheimer’s disease. When it comes to this disease, there is no time to lose. Get help today by scheduling your free introductory call now!
How Can Speech Therapy Help Someone with Alzheimer’s Disease?
Speech therapy provides Alzheimer’s patients with the skills and tools necessary to improve speech and language functions and improve their quality of life as much as possible. Speech-language pathologists work by forming an individualized treatment plan that focuses on strengthening and preserving skills related to speech, memory, and language. Each plan will consider and cater to the individual’s current cognitive status.
The goal of speech therapy for Alzheimer’s disease is to increase communication in all its forms, including speaking, reading, gesturing, expression and writing. With the right therapist, speech therapy will allow each patient to perform at their highest ability. But speech therapy for Alzheimer’s disease has many other benefits as well. Speech therapy provides important advantages that will positively affect the individual’s relationships, independence, and self-esteem.
Slowing the Disease
Research has shown that speech therapy can help to maintain executive function and even improve language deficits that are associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Quality of Life
Consistently working on language and communication skills benefits those with Alzheimer’s disease because it helps them to share their thoughts, feelings, and needs as long as their condition allows. Individuals with this disease can learn to communicate in multiple different ways with caregivers, friends, and family members.
Support for Caregivers and Loved Ones
Speech therapy benefits also extend to caregivers and loved ones. At Great Speech, our dedicated network of speech-language pathologists offers support and communication strategies for families and caregivers.
For many people who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, feelings of loss of dignity and quality of life as the disease progresses are common. Speech impairment therapy gives patients a boost of confidence and gives them a feeling of purpose and satisfaction. This increase in confidence encourages those with this disease to continue working on their friendships and attending social events.
Speech and memory challenges related to Alzheimer’s disease can be incredibly frustrating, particularly when they worsen over time. The best way to make a significant, lasting speech, language, and memory change is to work with an experienced and skilled speech-language pathologist. Get help for yourself or a loved one today by scheduling your free introductory call!