An older woman is trying to describe something that is appearing in a speech bubble, while a younger woman observes and writes on a clipboard.

The Benefits of Speech Therapy for People with Alzheimer's

I was with Mom at a hearing aid appointment and saw a poster for speech therapy for when you have trouble finding the words to say. Mom had been getting more frustrated with “word-finding” as we now know what it's called. She will know what she wanted to say, but she will get stuck on a word. “It won’t come out of my mouth!” She would say. We talked about it, asked about it, and made an appointment with Lindsay, the speech therapist. She suggested that mom see a neurologist to get a “baseline” exam. So, ok, we did.

Taking the baseline exam

The exam consisted of mental acuity questions. Mom had to remember the words penny, table, and lamp by the end of their session. She got so caught up in talking about everything, she couldn’t remember any of them, which she found hilarious! Then, she had trouble drawing a clock face, or counting backward from 100 by 7’s. We have all gotten way too used to digital, and counting backward by odd numbers is a challenge. It seemed more like a drinking game, only mom was a tea totaler. She recognized some drawings of wildlife, though. Great. The dot-to-dot was a disaster. Then the MRI. Which showed shrinkage. This is more than just words.

Getting diagnosed

That’s when the diagnosis came. I’m not sure mom really got it. There is shrinkage in her brain. There are some vascular issues. “Dementia" was used. I don’t think she got that part. I think likely Alzheimer’s was used. I know she didn’t get that part. That is a big fear of hers, and I was not eager to make it a reality. She was already dealing with colon cancer and lymphoma. We had made it through the former with flying colors. The latter was waning at the moment and not causing a problem.

Continued speech therapy

Mom has continued her appointments with Lindsay, who now adores my mother! She is the most encouraging woman! Every appointment is my mom’s best one yet! Lindsay meets with mom weekly. She challenges my mother with explaining idioms, repeating groups of words, even reordering them from memory. She has taught my mother, at 81, strategies for when she can’t say a word. She now stops, gives herself time to think, and if she still can’t say it, she describes it or comes up with a similar word, so we can figure it out. It has made a huge difference!

Virtual speech therapy

Mom knows she has some shrinkage and memory problems. She knows she has a hard time talking, which has gotten worse, but she is overcoming it. Now that we are all on lockdown, Mom’s appointments are online. She can still meet with Lindsay “face to face” over my laptop. Lindsay emails me the homework. I print it out for her, then take a picture of completed assignments and email them back.

I see mom every day. Lindsay, knowing her now, can see changes and can tell when medications are making a difference. It’s our decision, but her input has helped. I think we all need to audition for $100,000 Pyramid. We are getting pretty good at it!

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