Coping with Speech Problems from Dementia

Speech difficulty, or “aphasia,” is common in people with dementia, and may even be one of the first symptoms you notice. Problems may range from simply forgetting a word to have trouble following the conversation. Just because your loved one is not carrying on conversation as they once did, does not mean that they aren’t listening to you or don’t want to engage. Often times, they can not recall the word they want to use. The part of their brain responsible for memory and learning new things is compromised.

There are a number of things you can do to aid in speech:

Problem: Your loved one is having trouble understanding you.
Solution: Speak slowly, with proper pronunciation and grammar.

Problem: People with dementia have trouble holding multiple thoughts in their head.
Solution: Avoid lengthy streams of conversation and going off on tangents. Instead, try focusing on one idea or short story.

Problem: It is common for people with dementia to confuse or mix up words.
Solution: Anticipate this by following the other aspects of your loved one’s conversation to figure out what they are trying to say. Don’t be afraid to ask them if they really meant another word, but avoid over-correcting them.

Problem: People with dementia take longer to process language.
Solution: Be patient, they may just need more time.

As dementia progresses, communication may become more difficult, and you may have to resort to other forms of communication, such as touch, pictures, and even music. View our Caregiver Guide on Communication and Communication in Late Stages for more information!