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How Speech Pathology Can Help People With Dementia

According to the World Health Organization, it’s estimated that 50 million people worldwide live with dementia – a number expected to triple by 2050. However, progress is being made in dementia care, and one increasingly popular form of rehabilitation – speech pathology – comes highly recommended by Princeton Health Care Center.


What Is Speech Pathology?

Speech pathology is concerned with improving communication skills, both verbal and non-verbal. A speech pathologist addresses a person’s needs in two ways. One is articulation, which emphasizes mouth coordination as a means of strengthening a client’s fluency and voice-volume recognition. The other involves broadening the subject’s methods of communication. This includes traditional forms of communication forms like speech, writing, signing, and body language, as well as alternative forms often associated with technology – computers, tablets, social media, etc.


Most people wanting to incorporate speech pathology into a dementia care program already show some signs of dementia, and are aware of the negative impact it can have on speech. Thus, their focus (or the focus of the family/caregiver) is to improve the patient’s current level of function. However, some dementia sufferers have no issues with speech – instead, their focus is on managing and reducing certain cognitive shortcomings.


How Can Speech Pathology Help?

Dementia is a collection of symptoms – not just one or two. In addition to developing deficiencies in speech, memory, and attention span, dementia sufferers can also experience disorientation, impaired judgement, and depression. However, an experienced speech pathologist can tailor a treatment plan that improves the patient’s outlook on all fronts. This is because in a broad sense, speech pathology is about helping dementia patients maintain a level of independence, stimulating their cognitive skills so they can remain communicative.


A speech pathologist also teaches a patient to modify their environment, which in turn helps the sufferer compensate for his cognitive/communication deficits. Dementia-related changes that may have seemed scary to the patient become easier to cope with, which strengthens the peace of mind of the patient and his loved ones. Memory-boosting techniques like errorless learning and spaced retrieval are often used by a speech pathologist, along with memory books and other materials.


One oft-overlooked skill contributed by a speech pathologist is an analysis of a dementia patient’s drinking, eating, and swallowing. Having spent time with the patient learning his “mouth-related” strengths and weaknesses, the pathologist is well-positioned to identify any mealtime problems and suggest helpful management strategies.


How Can Family Members and Caregivers Benefit?

Rarely is a dementia patient’s behavior random. Outbursts and setbacks are almost always related to a change in their immediate environment. With the assistance of a speech pathologist, family and caregivers learn how to best communicate with their loved one, and how to manage the patient’s symptoms. When everyone is communicating on the same level, the patient’s quality of life improves, stress and anxiety decrease, and the patient feels more connected to his support team.


Speak With Our Team Today

Princeton Health Care Center takes great pride in providing care for our residents and their variety of needs.  Whether a resident needs speech pathology and therapy, respiratory care, or an array of other rehabilitation services, we are here to help.  Contact us today to schedule a tour!

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