By Susan Becker, M.S. CCC/SLP
Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative brain disorder that takes years to develop and progresses slowly in most people. Persons with PD have decline in the production of dopamine. As a result; there is decreased ability to regulate movements, body and emotions. At the present time there is no cure for PD. Persons with PD are treated for their symptoms to achieve maximum quality of life.
A Speech-Language Pathologist will typically become involved with PD patients as the disease progresses. Persons with PD often develop dysphasia as well, which is a problem with voice and cognition. The SLP would see the patient for a swallow evaluation and speech and language/voice evaluation. A treatment plan would then be established. This may include additional testing such as a Modified Barrium Swallow or FEES. Voice and cognitive therapy may also be indicated.
As PD progresses, it may become difficult to speak or communicate. Follow the below tips for patients with Parkinson’s Disease to maintain or enhance communication with loved ones during this time.
Tips to maintain and enhance communication:
- Choose an environment with reduced noice. It can be quite tiring to try to “talk over” the television or radio.
- Speak slowly.
- Be certain your listener can see your face. Look at the person while you are talking. A well-lit room enhances face-to-face conversation, increasing intelligibility.
- Use short phrases. Say one or two words, or syllables per breath.
- Over-articulate your speech by prolonging the vowels and exaggerating the consonants.
- Sit in a sturdy chair, one with arms can help maintain posture and aide in optimal breathing, your diaphragm will not be compromised.
- Choose a comfortable posture and position that provide support during long and stressful conversations.
- Be aware that exercises intended to strengthen weakening muscles might be counter-productive. Always ask you speech-language therapist which exercises are right for you.
- Plan periods of vocal rest before planned conversations or phone calls. Know that fatigue significantly affects your speaking ability. Techniques that work in the morning might not work later in the day.
- If you are soft spoken and your voice has become low, consider using an amplifier.
- If you are on a respirator (with full inflated cuffs), an electrolarynx or respiratory tube that provides an alternative air source might be used.
- If some people have difficulty understanding you, the following strategies might help:
- If you are able to write without difficulty, always carry a paper and pen as a back up so you can write down what you are trying to say.
- If writing is difficult, use an alphabet board to point or scan to the first letter of the word that are spoken.
- Spell words out loud or on an alphabet board if they are not understood.
- Establish the topic before speaking.
- Use telegraphic speech. Leave out unnecessary words to communicate the meaning of the topic.
Non-verbal communication, also called augmentative and alternative communication (AAC), is a method of communicating without spoken words. When communication needs cannot be met through speech, non-verbal communication can help people with difficulties speak better by reducing the frustration and stress of being unable to communicate.
Here are some ways in which listeners can help people who have difficulty speaking and communicating:
- Talk to the person face-to-face only, and look at the person as he/she is speaking.
- Ask questions that require “yes” or “no” answers.
- Repeat the part of the sentence that you understood. (For example, “You want me to go upstairs and get the what?”).
- Ask the person to repeat what he or she said, or ask him or her to speak more slowly or spell out the words you did not understand.
For more information and resources regarding Parkinson’s disease, Please contact the National Parkinson’s Foundation at: www.parkinsons.org.
- The Cleveland Clinic Foundation, http://my.clevelandclinic.org
- The Nation Parkinson Foundation, parkinsons.org
- The National Institute of Health, nih.gov
Questions or concerns? Please don’t hesitate to contact me at 732-232-4628.
More blogs written by Susan: