Dementia is a syndrome that affects a wide segment of the population.
It is a progressive syndrome, which means that it slowly gets worse over time.
But, the good news is that speech therapy can slow the progression of symptoms associated with dementia and help you or your loved one maintain independence for longer.
This is due to the many benefits of speech therapy on your cognitive functioning.
Now, if you’re looking for a Washington DC speech therapy clinic contact District Speech & Language Therapy to speak with one of our many experienced speech therapists for help with dementia.
Let’s find out more.
What Is Dementia?
Dementia is a syndrome that entails a progressive decline of cognitive function and memory.
As it progresses, it can get severe and heavily interfere with daily, independent living.
What Causes Dementia?
A number of neurodegenerative diseases cause Dementia including:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Huntington’s disease
- Lewy body disease
- Vascular pathology
- Parkinson’s disease
Alzheimer’s disease is currently the leading cause of dementia.
Other conditions that may result in dementia because of progressive changes in brain function include:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Multiple sclerosis
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
What Are The Symptoms Of Dementia?
The symptoms of dementia vary depending on the stage of the syndrome.
Like we said above, the severity increases depending on the stage.
But generally speaking, the symptoms and diagnostic criteria for dementia are focused on cognitive deficits and general decline from previous levels of cognitive performance in areas such as:
- Complex attention
- Executive function
- Learning Impairment
- Social cognition
Now, let’s explore the three main stages of dementia.
Symptoms Of Early Stage Dementia
The early stage of dementia includes gradual confusion and personality changes.
You may notice your loved one become frustrated or irritable over unusual things.
This may also be accompanied by anxiety and antisocial tendencies.
It will become extra difficult for them to complete routine chores, and you may notice that they begin avoiding them.
This is because it takes longer to complete tasks and is extra difficult for them to follow through because of an inability to focus.
At this stage, going out in public starts to become a challenge because it is easy for your loved one to get confused.
This can also occur with their items, and could lead to them accusing those around them of hiding or stealing their things.
Symptoms Of Middle Stage Dementia
The middle stage of dementia entails an increase in most of the symptoms from the early stage of dementia.
You’ll most likely notice that your loved one’s confusion is more obvious, and so is their memory loss.
Specifically, they may even forget very recent events and the identity of their family members.
It’s common to notice that the symptoms are more prevalent in the late afternoon and evening, so don’t be alarmed if you notice that they are more suspicious, irritable, restless, or fidgety right before bed.
Symptoms Of Late Stage Dementia
Finally, late stage dementia is the most challenging for everyone involved.
At this point, your loved one will have lost the ability to recognize those closest to them, including their own reflection.
It is common for them to lose weight, regardless of their diet, and they will often fidget and shake.
Without treatment, they may lose the ability to communicate completely, using moans and hand movements instead.
These are situations where augmentative and alternative communications (AAC) might be helpful, but it’s very difficult for someone with dementia at this level to learn anything new.
How Can A Speech Therapist Help With Dementia?
The good news is that adult speech therapy in Washington DC can stall the progression of symptoms by engaging with the same variety of cognitive functions that dementia impairs.
The goal is for your loved one to maintain their independence for as long as possible.
A speech therapist stimulates cognitive ability through different activities that target specific aspects of the cognitive domain.
In addition to working with their deficits, a speech therapist will teach your loved one how to modify their environment, which is crucial to adapting to the ongoing cognitive changes dementia causes.
Below are some common strategies your speech therapist may employ.
1. Cognitive Stimulation Therapy
Cognitive stimulation therapy is a group treatment focused on patients with mild to moderate dementia.
A speech therapist will use theme-based, mentally stimulating activities geared towards improving cognitive functions like thinking, concentration, and memory.
2. Memory Aids
Memory aids are a great tool for helping your loved one with their daily activities.
The goal is to compensate for memory deficits, maximize independence, improve conversation, reduce anxiety, and decrease responsive behaviors like repetitive questioning.
Some examples include checklists, daily planners, calendars, programmable watches, smart phones, recorded messages, communication cards, and a memory book.
These are great tools both for going about daily activities and for helping with the retrieval of personal information.
3. Validation Therapy
Validation therapy is an approach that validates and accepts the values, beliefs, and reality of the person with dementia.
The goal is to reduce stress and provide opportunities for your loved one to communicate, which in turn promotes contentment and diminishes negative behaviors.
4. Environmental Changes
Environmental changes are physical adaptations to the environment that improve the overall functioning of individuals with dementia.
The goal is to support communication by reducing physical barriers caused by impaired body function.
Some examples of these changes include:
- Personalizing living spaces to help memory
- Reorganizing living spaces to provide a clear line of site to items and locations
- Minimizing background noises by improving audibility and using amplification devices as needed
5. Other Possible Treatments
There are a number of other possible treatments your speech therapist can use to help your loved one slow the progression of symptoms.
Some examples include:
- Computer-based treatment
- Eating and swallowing interventions
- Spaced retrieval
This is far from an exhaustive list.
You should contact your speech therapist, who can give you the full range of treatment options available and their professional recommendation to help your loved one through this challenging time.
Book Your Appointment With District Speech & Language Therapy Today
As you can see, speech therapy is a great resource to help you slow the progress of symptoms of dementia.
There are a number of different approaches your speech therapist can take to maximize the chances for your loved one’s success and extended independence.
This includes maintaining their complex attention, executive function, learning, memory, language, and even social cognition.
The earlier you begin therapy after a diagnosis, the greater your chances for success.
Book an appointment today with District Speech & Language Therapy to get started and schedule an evaluation.
1300 I St NW, #400E,
Washington, DC 20005
District Speech and Language Therapy specializes in speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy solutions, for both children and adults, in the Washington D.C and the Arlington Virginia areas.