Alzheimer’s Foundation of America

Foundation of America

Seeing a Speech Pathologist?

Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) play a central role in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of individuals with dementia (ASHA, 2007) and collaborate with many other disciplines in caring for individuals with dementia. Individuals with dementia may develop aphasia, the inability to communicate effectively or dysphagia, a swallowing disorder. SLPs can provide specific types of support to manage these symptoms and ensure the best possible quality of life. Referral and collaboration between members of the team, particularly during the early stages of assessment and treatment planning, are important to help ensure quality service for individuals affected by communication and cognitive disorders.

Some Signs of Aphasia and Dysphagia can be:

  • Coughing during or right after eating or drinking
  • Extra effort or time needed to chew and swallow
  • Food or liquid leaking from the mouth
  • Weight loss or dehydration
  • Risk of aspiration

A Speech Pathologist will:

  • Assess and diagnose swallowing disorders associated with dementia
  • Work with the person to ensure safe swallowing
  • Help the individual use strategies to preserve communication for as long as possible
  • Teach families ways to communicate using different tools, such as a communication board
  • Refer the individual to other professionals to rule out other conditions and facilitate access to comprehensive services