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Vital Role of Speech Therapy in Managing Dementias

A Speech Therapist helps man's facial muscles and lip strength by getting him to 'say ah'.

Dementia describes various brain disorders that alter everyday activities and relationships. Although there are several types of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease is the most common. The fifth leading cause of death, Alzheimer’s currently affects almost 7 million Americans ; by 2050, that number is expected to jump to 13 million.

One of the most common symptoms of dementia is difficulties with language. A person with dementia might have a hard time understanding what’s being said or verbally expressing what they want to share. Speech therapy can play an important role in ensuring those with Alzheimer’s and other dementias are able to engage and connect with the world around them.

Here’s how speech therapy can make a significant impact in the quality of life for those with dementia:

  1. Communication skills. Communication is fundamental to our identity and social interactions. For dementia patients, speech therapists work to slow the progression of communication difficulties. Techniques might include exercises to improve articulation and using gestures to aid expression. These therapies help patients express their needs and emotions, fostering independence and reducing frustrations commonly associated with speech impairments.
  1. Language exercises. Speech therapists use specific language exercises to improve cognitive and linguistic skills. For instance, tasks like categorizing items and playing word-retrieval games can help patients keep their vocabulary and language processing abilities longer.
  1. Memory enhancement. Many speech therapy interventions also focus on memory support. Therapists might use reminiscence therapy, which involves discussing memories and experiences, to improve recall abilities. This not only aids in communication but also helps anchor the individual in their personal history, enhancing emotional well-being.
  1. Swallowing support. Dysphagia, or difficulty swallowing, is common in later stages of dementia and can pose serious health risks. Speech therapists assess and manage swallowing difficulties and teach strategies to ensure the person can both eat (or be fed) safely and avoid complications like aspiration pneumonia.
  1. Counseling. Speech therapy also provides crucial support for both patients and their families, educating them about communication strategies and adjustments in caregiving practices. This counseling is vital for adapting to the evolving challenges of dementia.

CPT’s speech therapy services support those affected by dementia. Our therapists are experts in developing personalized plans tailored to each patient’s unique needs. We believe in empowering our clients and their families with the skills and knowledge to improve communication, memory, and overall life quality. For more information on how our speech therapy can assist you or your loved ones, please contact us.

In recognition of Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month, let’s embrace action and support of those with dementia.