Congress designates June as National Aphasia Awareness Month to raise awareness of this condition. What’s Aphasia? It is an acquired disorder caused by brain damage which affects a person’s ability to communicate – the ability to speak and understand others, as well as difficulty reading and writing.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), aphasia affects at least 1,000,000 people in the United States. The most common cause of Aphasia is stroke – 25 -40% of stroke survivors have aphasia. Seniors with Alzheimer’s, as well as individuals with brain tumors or who have had head injuries often suffer from aphasia.
Aphasia is just one of the common speech disorders that afflict the elderly. Faerella Boczko, MS, CCC-SLP, BRS-S, is the Director of Speech Language Pathology at the Jewish Home. She shares this overview of speech disorders faced by older adults.
Speech Disorders in Older Adults
Disorders of speech and communication that affect the elderly population may result from stroke, cancer, disease of the larynx, Parkinson’s disease, or other neurological disorders. They vary widely and include difficulty speaking and understanding verbal and/or written information. In many cases, the effects of speech impairments may be overwhelming and frustrating for the patient and caregiver.
A patient should be evaluated by a Speech Language Pathologist, licensed by New York State and one who holds the Certificate of Clinical Competence (CCC), issued by The American Speech Language Hearing Association. Speech Language Pathologists are specialists in communication and its disorders. They are professionally educated to evaluate and treat persons with speech and communication impairments.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What are the types of speech disorders?
The disorders of speech and communication which most frequently affect the elderly are:
Aphasia: Aphasia is caused by brain damage, resulting most often from a stroke or direct injury of the head. It is a condition in which a person has difficulty expressing thoughts and understanding what is said or written by others.
Dysarthria: Dysarthria is the result of incoordination or weakness of the speech mechanism. Speech may be slurred or difficult to understand. Parkinson’s, multiple sclerosis, as well as strokes, can cause dysarthria.
Voice problems: Surgical removal of the larynx (voice box) due to cancer and other forms of disease may result in complete or partial loss of the voice. Voice is a problem when loudness, quality or pitch are inadequate for communication.
Other communication disorders: Cognitive disorders result in progressive loss of mental functions of the brain. These may include memory, language, problem-solving/reasoning, attention/concentration, and organization-of-thought processes. These functional disorders may result in decreased ability to concentrate.
How do I pay for speech disorder treatment?
Major health care plans may provide for a Speech Language Pathologist (SLP) to evaluate and treat impairments or loss of speech, language or swallowing. Medicare does include coverage for treatment of SLP disorders. In non-public insurance plans, look for terms such as “speech pathology” or “speech therapy”, “other rehabilitation services” or “other medically necessary services or therapies.” These services should include:
• A speech language assessment
• Provision of necessary rehabilitation speech language pathology services for speech, or language resulting from illness, disease, injury, congenital and /or developmental conditions
• Dysphagia (swallowing disorder) assessment and treatment. Read about Jewish Home’s swallowing/Dysphagia Center to learn more about caring for this condition:
American Speech Language Hearing Association
10801 Rockville Pike
Rockville, MD 20852
New York State Speech Language Hearing Association
146 Washington Avenue
Albany, New York 12210
Fax: (518) 472-8177