The Importance of Speech Therapy for Seniors

Speech therapy for seniors is often necessary when recovering from the debilitating consequences of a stroke or dementia.  It may also be necessary after a head injury.

The ability to communicate effectively is important at any age, but for seniors it can be absolutely vital. If a senior cannot successfully describe what they need, where they hurt, or what is wrong in general, an emergency situation can easily occur.

If your loved one is having difficulty communicating, there are a number of consequences to ignoring these speech and communication issues.  You may need to consider speech therapy services if your loved one:

  • Has problems requesting items and responding to questions
  • Experiences difficulty managing their own financial, personal or medical matters
  • Shows an inability to avoid injury or potentially dangerous situations

After a comprehensive speech therapy evaluation is done on your loved one, the speech-language pathologist can determine if the problem is language-based and how to best address it. Other factors also need to be looked at to rule out medications, depression, dehydration, etc. as part of the problem.

Speech therapy for the elderly can help with speech issues due to the natural aging process.  As one grows older, vocal cords can become less elastic and larynx muscles can weaken, making it difficult to talk in a manner they are accustomed to. Speech therapy for seniors can help them re-learn how to speak, using vocal exercises to help them communicate effectively once again.

Speech therapy is also often necessary following a stroke. This type of language impairment is called aphasia, which is a communication disorder impairing a person’s ability to use and comprehend language. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, over 700,000 people suffer a stroke in the United States every year. One in four stroke survivors experience aphasia following a stroke and require rehabilitation. Recovering speech after a stroke is possible, especially if treatment is started immediately.  If symptoms last longer than six months, it is unlikely the patient will recover completely.

A speech-language pathologist is trained to focus on speech, language, voice, cognition and swallowing problems within the geriatric population.

Treatment for the elderly after a stroke can include:

  • Art therapy
  • Melodic intonation therapy (singing words they cannot speak)
  • Group therapy and support groups
  • Visual speech perception (associating words with pictures) therapy
  • Constraint-induced language therapy (creating a scenario using spoken words only, with no visual cues like body language, etc.)

The goal of speech therapy for seniors is to increase functional communication, cognitive skills and teach safe swallowing by introducing diet modifications and special feeding techniques.

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