How Telespeech Therapy Can Help Dementia Patients
New research shows using telespeech therapy can help those suffering from dementia improve their ability to recall words previously “lost.” The study, from Northwestern Medicine, discovered that one woman was correctly able to identify the flowers in her garden again, and a man was able to command his dog to heard his sheep on his farm, as well as order his favorite meal at the drive-through of his favorite fast food restaurant.
Experts say that those with primary progressive aphasia or Alzheimer’s disease often struggle with language issues, typically displayed as an inability to find the words necessary to order food at a restaurant, or retrieve names.
Most speech language pathologists are trained to assist children, or stroke victims, thus leaving dementia-related aphasia untreated in a number of cases. The team at Northwestern is working on closing that gap with their new program, the Communication Bridge. Through this program, professional SLPs are working to offer personalized speech therapy online, specifically to those with dementia-related aphasia.
The pilot study shows promising results for the participants. After just two months of therapy, many participants were able to recall words they had previously struggled with. But, after six months of therapy, their improvements were still maintained.
A Colorado woman participated in the program for eight weeks with virtual flashcards, and was able to name her golf swings again. Another woman, from Alabama, was able to remember the names of all her grandchildren.
These results are amazing because dementia is generally a progressive disease with declines as time goes on. When therapy is performed, it not only shows it is possible to make positive gains, but to hold onto them over time, thus slowing the progression of the disease.
Those who are interested in the study can view it in the Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions journal.
Though this is not a cure, it is a clear sign that it may be possible to delay some progression of the disease, therefore maximizing a person’s remaining abilities, allowing them to compensate and remain as productive and self-sufficient as possible, for as long as they can.
When a patient enters the program, they are first evaluated to determine their strengths and challenges. Then, they are given eight therapy sessions over a secure video-chat platform, working with an SLP. Alongside the live sessions, they are given videos to help reinforce everything they went over in the sessions, and assignments they can do at home like virtual flashcards and a communication notebook to help them commit everything to memory.