The cognitive decline associated with dementia is devastating to patients. In addition to losing memory and undergoing personality changes, dementia patients can also experience a decline in their speech abilities. But practicing verbal skills can have a beneficial effect on dementia patients. That’s the conclusion of a Northwestern University study researching the use of speech therapy in dementia patients.
The scientists in the research program were studying a type of dementia called primary progressive aphasia, which causes a person to lose communication skills first, according to the Daily Northwestern.
Emily Rogalski, an instructor at Northwestern’s Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer’s Disease Center, told the newspaper that it has been difficult for patients to find speech-language pathologists able to treat degenerative diseases of the mind. She added that there’s a misconception that speech-language therapy does not help patients who have dementia. But that’s not what Northwestern scientists found.
Using the internet, researchers offered study participants eight one-hour videoconference treatment sessions with speech-language pathologists. The sessions were developed to help study participants absorb words that have particular meaning in their lives, the Daily Northwestern explained. For one patient, the sessions included reciting the names of flowers and plants in her garden.
Those sessions were followed by two post-enrollment evaluations to gauge the benefit of the therapy. Those evaluations found that patients showed statistically significant improvement in patients’ confidence in their communication abilities. That’s good news for dementia patients. Now, the Northwestern scientists say that they would like to expand the program, perhaps with a grant that can fund a formal clinical trial to document the effectiveness of this approach. That way, this approach helping dementia patients can eventually reach more people.
Speech therapy is a growing field addressing wider number of medical conditions. Contact us to learn more about these and other career opportunities in speech therapy.
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