Parkinson's disease often affects the patient's ability to speak clearly and this is often considered one of its worse symptoms. For many patients, the loss of their ability to communicate clearly to others is heartbreaking. For these patients, they have the added problem of feeling as if they have some sort of dementia. It is important to remember that a Parkinson's patient can hear himself just fine.
It has been estimated that between 65-90% of Parkinson's disease sufferers will ultimately have troubles with their speech, and these problems can become apparent in explicit ways which include speaking in either a monotone or unintelligible gibberish. At times, patients hesitate before actually speaking which can give the impression that there is some memory impairment or dementia with the patient. At other times, the speech is faster than normal, and very often the same words are repeated over and over. Again, this can give the impression that the patient is suffering from dementia or memory impairment problems.
Dysarthria is another speech problem associated with Parkinson's disease. This speech problem shows itself in ways such as a weak, soft spoken, slow or incoherent speech. As both the pitch and volume of speech is also affected by dysarthria, eventually speech becomes unintelligible.
Dysarthria is caused by the speech muscles weakening and becoming uncoordinated due to the Parkinson's condition. Severity can vary from one patient to the next. In fact, some patients may have this in very severe form, while others may only have slight effects from it.
Speech therapy can often help with this problem for some patients. If speech therapy is carefully introduced in conjunction with medication extremely good results can often be achieved.
Voice exercises to improve vocal cords and muscles can also improve speech difficulties caused by Parkinson's disease. Regular voice exercises can be very effective.
Regardless of the therapy used, a person with Parkinson's disease who is also suffering from a speech impediment should always be treated with consideration and patience. Visitors should remember that they need time to formulate their words and then must deliver the words through the mouth. It can frustrating for both parties, the speaker and the person listening to the Parkinson's sufferer, but patience and respect must win out. Trying to get the speaker to speak faster will only make the problem worse.
Everyone should keep in mind that Parkinson's disease steals many things from a person. The fact that it can also steal a person's ability to communicate only makes it more dreadful.
By Jeremy Parker
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