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Speech therapy is beneficial to people with dementia
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Speech therapy is beneficial to people with dementia

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Amy Haave/Nye Senior Services

Many people are unaware of the benefits of speech therapy for people struggling with dementia.

November was National Alzheimer’s Awareness Month and as part of Nye Senior Services ongoing effort to increase awareness for the services available for people with dementia, this column will focus on the benefits of specialized speech therapy.

What is speech therapy?

Speech therapists (or speech language pathologists) provide therapy to help increase a person’s communication ability in writing, reading, speaking and gesturing. We have a broad scope of practice that includes speech, voice, swallowing disorders, language, cognition (thinking, reasoning, and perceptual abilities), and aural rehab (for people with hearing loss).

Communication function is always affected when an individual has memory and other cognitive deficits, such Alzheimer’s disease.

Speech therapists have a primary role in screening, assessment and treatment, but they can also play a critical role in caregiving training and family counseling.

Each person with dementia is affected differently. Speech therapists will design a unique plan of care for dementia patients that strengthen the knowledge and memory processes that have the potential to improve, reduce demands on impaired cognitive systems and increase reliance on spared cognitive systems. Speech therapists also can provide training with caregivers’ families so positive memories, actions and emotions are more likely to occur. Behaviors that can be indicators of dementia that should also trigger a referral to speech therapy include:

* Difficulty selecting appropriate words and remembering names.

* Limited memory and/or knowledge of current events and/or personal history.

* Responses to conversation may be delayed, perseverative (repeating the same word or answer even when inappropriate), or off-topic responses, including inappropriate words.

* Exhibits socially inappropriate behavior.

* Difficulty with concepts of time or money.

* Difficulty managing emotions (especially anxiety, frustration, or anger) related to performance difficulties.

* Difficulty understanding and managing personal legal or financial matters.

* Difficulty following directions.

* Difficulty counting to 10.

* Difficulty anticipating consequences of own actions.

* Limited eye contact.

* Limited social behaviors (e.g., expressions of courtesy and facial expressions).

* Difficulty paying attention while speaking (that is, does not complete sentences or take turns speaking during conversation).

The ability to communicate is integral to carrying out

activities of daily living and for social interaction. Federal legislation requires that residents of long-term care facilities have a care plan that will enable them to function at their highest level of ability. The mission of most nursing facilities is to maximize functional independence, promote wellness, and achieve the highest quality of life possible. Speech, language and hearing services are important in achieving these goals.

Amy Haave directs the speech therapy services on the Nye Senior Services campus. She holds a master of arts degree in speech language pathology, and is a master clinician in the area of dementia. Haave invites your questions about dementia and other speech and hearing treatments. You may contact her at: amy.haave@msn.comor by calling Nye Legacy, (402) 753-4853.

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