Your mom’s doctor recommends speech therapy services as she enters the middle stages of Alzheimer’s. Your mom forgets her words all of the time, so what can a speech therapist do that will help her?
Here are six things you should know about speech therapy for Alzheimer’s.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive type of dementia where a person slowly loses their memory and thinking skills over several years. Some Alzheimer’s patients have lived with the disease for 20 years. An estimated 6.5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s, so it’s not uncommon to have a parent diagnosed with it.
Her neurologist and memory care team told you that it’s a good time to arrange speech therapy. What is it, and what will it help your mom with?
Understanding Speech Therapy
Speech therapy is a form of rehabilitation where a speech-language pathologist helps your mom with her communication skills and ability to eat and swallow. There are several ways it will help your mom as Alzheimer’s progresses.
Six Things a Speech-Language Pathologist Helps With
1. Communication Skills: Your mom will learn how to make facial expressions or hand gestures that help her communicate. She may learn to point at a picture or use a device like a tablet equipped with speech-generating software to help her communicate.
2. Improve Her Quality of Life: Your mom’s quality of life improves when she’s able to communicate. As she’s being heard and understood, she’s less frustrated and upset. She’ll be calmer and less prone to outbursts.
3. Address Behavioral Changes: As the disease progresses, the brain’s deterioration can lead to behavioral changes. Your mom’s filters may go, and she might not easily identify right from wrong. With speech therapy services, you can learn how to provide her with the support she needs as you redirect her behaviors like wandering, aggression, and anger.
4. Caregiver Communication: As your mom’s caregiver, you find it hard to handle her aggression, agitation, and loss of speech skills. Her speech-language pathologist helps you learn how to communicate with her to ease her frustrations. It reduces the stress you feel and helps you become a better family caregiver.
5. Swallowing Skills: Your mom’s speech-language pathologist also helps her with swallowing skills. In the late stages, the ability to swallow decreases, which can increase the risk of choking or breathing in food particles into the lungs. Aspiration pneumonia is common in Alzheimer’s, but your mom can strengthen her muscles to help her swallow and eat and drink safely.
6. Healthier Eating Habits: The other benefit is that your mom will be able to eat healthy foods for a longer amount of time. Many adults with Alzheimer’s progress to the point that finger foods are needed. After that, nutritional shakes became the norm. Your mom’s speech therapist helps her maintain the ability to swallow, which means she eats more and takes in more of the nutrients her body needs.
Speech therapy offers so many benefits beyond communication and speech. Talk to your mom’s memory care team to get information on her current status and then call a speech therapy office to schedule a meeting.