5 min read

How Seniors can Benefit from Speech Therapy

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Our voice and our means of speaking is one of our most treasured abilities. Effective communication is key for connection and understanding, but as we age, we might begin to see signs that our ability to speak is starting to diminish.  


Sometimes, one of the prices we pay from the natural aging process is our speech, but thanks to the advancement of medical practices, speech therapy can help seniors learn or relearn strategies to help their communication improve. Age can cause our vocal cords to become less elastic. Most commonly, our larynx muscles may weaken, making it difficult to talk. The larynx muscles are in the throat, they are used for breathing, swallowing and talking, and with the absence of their efficacy, we can struggle from more issues than just speaking. 


Speech therapy may need to become a necessary practice for those who have suffered from a stroke, a head injury or are diagnosed with dementia. Following a stroke, the type of language impairment most seen is called aphasia. Aphasia is a communication disorder that impairs a person's ability to use and understand language due to a disruption in the brain’s pathways. According to the CDC, out of the 800,000 people (about half the population of Idaho) who suffer from a stroke every year in the United States, one in four survivors are left with aphasia as a side effect. If someone suffers from aphasia, they must seek treatment from a speech therapist as soon as possible, because the longer it takes to seek help, the more likely the effects will become permanent. 


While speech therapy for the elderly is mainly there to help with relearning how to speak, it can also positively affect our breathing and swallowing abilities. The primary goal of speech therapy for seniors in most situations may be to increase functional communication and cognition, but we can also use speech therapy to teach safe swallowing. Introducing special feeding techniques or possible slight diet modifications can greatly decrease the likelihood of choking and can help retrain the throat muscles. 


Speech is important for every person, but some may argue that it is even more so important for the elderly. Effective communication for people of age plays a significant role in their well-being because communicating is paramount to sharing needs with doctors, nurses and families. Situations may escalate to emergencies if the ability to effectively communicate is hindered. 


4 Signs it's time for speech therapy


Here are some examples of when it may be time for a senior to seek help from a speech therapist: 

  • Trouble requesting items and responding to questions.
  • Problems managing his/her own financial, personal or medical needs.
  • Rapid, unplanned weight loss.
  • Inability to avoid injury or potentially dangerous situations.


What speech therapy looks like for seniors


Seeking any type of professional help may be intimidating for anyone. But knowing what kind of activities are typically done at these treatments may help. Here is what speech therapy may look like for a senior: 

  • Art therapy: this type of therapy is a form of communication development because it helps individuals express themselves through a visual medium.
  • Melodic intonation therapy (MIT): this type of therapy takes advantage of singing abilities. Music affects the brain in an astounding number of ways, MIT takes advantage of melody and rhythm, used to sing, to improve language production.
  • Group therapy support groups: learning new skills and sharing experiences with others can be very motivating. Being in a group can help reinforce therapeutic strategies while being in a compassionate and supportive environment.
  • Visual speech perception therapy: this helps the brain’s ability to draw conclusions from information that is absorbed through the eyes. Visual speech perception therapy focuses on associating words with pictures.
  • Constraint-induced language therapy: this therapy is designed for the patient to create a scenario using spoken words only, without using visual cues or body language.

If you believe that speech therapy might be appropriate for you or your loved one, the team at Gulfside Home Health is available to answer your questions and start the enrollment process. Even if you’re not sure, our team is happy to meet with you for a services evaluation to determine how Gulfside can best serve you. 


To get started, call us anytime at 800-817-9941 or complete the online referral form. 


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