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Benefits of Speech Therapy for Older Adults

Speech therapy for seniors

Whether you’re asking questions, telling a story, offering comfort or sharing a joke, speech is one of the building blocks of human relationships. It’s so basic, it’s easily taken for granted — until something happens to disrupt the ability to speak. Illness and the natural effects of aging can impact an older adult’s ability to speak effectively, making communication difficult and frustrating. Fortunately, speech therapy for seniors can provide a solution. Through vocal exercises, adaptive strategies and muscle retraining, speech therapy offers a number of benefits, including:

Improved Coordination of Speech-Related Muscles

Every word you utter requires the coordination of approximately 100 different muscles in the chest, neck, jaw, tongue and lips. Certain medications, or conditions like stroke, Parkinson’s disease, or head injury can make it difficult to coordinate these muscles, leading to symptoms such as slurred speech or difficulty modulating speech volume. This condition, known as dysarthria, can be improved by treating the underlying causes of the condition, and through speech therapy.

Voice Strengthening

Just as age can make your knees creak and your skin less elastic, getting older can also affect your vocal cords and larynx, which will, in turn, affect your voice. Symptoms include changes in the pitch of your voice, reduced volume, difficulty projecting, and a shaky or breathy voice. Speech therapy can help reduce throat strain and boost vocal stamina so you can get your voice back.

Recovered Ability to Swallow

Dysphagia is the medical term for difficulty swallowing. Much like speaking, swallowing is a complex operation requiring the coordination of many muscles and nerves. Although difficulty swallowing is more common in older adults, it’s not considered a normal part of aging, and can increase the risk of choking or aspiration, which is when food or liquid is inhaled into your airway or lungs. A speech therapist can suggest exercises to strengthen the muscles that help with swallowing, or can help you develop adaptive strategies so you can eat and drink safely.

Rehabilitation After Stroke

Problems with communication are common after a stroke, affecting approximately 30% of stroke survivors. In addition to causing dysarthria, a stroke can often lead to two other conditions:

  • Aphasia is caused by damage to the part of the brain that controls language expression and comprehension. Although there are different types of aphasia, common symptoms include the inability to find the right words when speaking, difficulty with reading comprehension, and writing or speaking in sentences that don’t make sense.
  • Apraxia is difficulty producing the movements required to speak, even though there is no paralysis or weakness of the speech muscles.

Speech therapy can be an effective rehabilitation tool for each of these conditions, and the sooner therapy begins after a stroke, the better the chances of recovery.

Help with Symptoms of Dementia or Other Types of Memory Loss

Speech therapy can be an important tool in helping people with dementia retain their communication skills for as long as possible. Through speech therapy, someone with dementia can learn exercises and techniques to help them focus, problem solve and find the right words when speaking. A speech therapist can also work with family members, offering strategies to help facilitate communication as their loved one’s cognitive abilities decline.

Better Quality of Life

When communication is difficult, seniors are more likely to withdraw, which can lead to loneliness and the increased health risks associated with social isolation. Communication challenges can also pose a safety risk, making it difficult for an older adult to express their needs, ask for help, or convey to others when they’re in pain or uncomfortable. Speech therapy for seniors can help older adults regain the skills that allow them to connect with others in meaningful ways and give voice to their needs, ideas, joys and concerns.

Therapy Services at Oaks Senior Living

At Oaks Senior Living, we know how important it is to have the right help in place after a health setback. That’s why our senior living communities have on-site wellness centers where rehabilitation services — including speech, physical and occupational therapies — are available, making it simple for residents to get the support they need to live their best lives. To find out more about speech therapy for seniors or any of the services and amenities available at Oaks Senior Living, reach out to us today!

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