The body goes through many changes as it ages. Some of those changes are easy to see, while others happen gradually over time. The ability to communicate is one of those changes that may be hard to notice at first, but can drastically get worse.
A study was conducted to observe the changes that occur to the voice pitch and pronunciation of Gordon Hinckley, the president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. About 50 years of Hinckley’s speeches were analyzed to discover how his voice had changed from one year to the next. What they found out what that the pitch of his voice became higher each year until he was 60. By his 80’s he began speaking at a slower rate and slurring began in his 90’s.
Being prepared for and understanding these changes will help us and your elderly loved one accept them much easier.
Facts Affecting Communication Skills
There are three factors that play a role in the speech and communication skills:
This factor is what controls vision and hearing. Diminished vision will make the elder much more problematic to communicate with because they will be unable to pay attention to nonverbal cues, resulting in an increased risk of isolation and becoming withdrawn from social interactions. Hearing loss can affect speech because there will be a change to how clear the elder can hear and understand the tone.
There are three neurological health conditions that can greatly impact how well your loved one can communicate with others:
Aphasia: This condition occurs for some elders after having a stroke and makes it difficult for them to process, understand, or communicate with others. There are several levels of this condition; some may cause the elder to lose the ability to express their thoughts in oral and written communication. Other levels of this condition make it hard for the elder to understand what is being said or written.
Dysphonia: A tumor in the brain stem or injury to the larynx can create a hoarse tone when the elder speaks. This change in tone is known as dysphonia.
Dysarthria: Your loved one may develop this condition if they have a degenerative disease. It causes problems with the elder’s ability to pronunciate words and find the right rhythm.
Cognitive skills come directly from the brain, so if the senior’s mental speed is slow, so will their communication skills. Fortunately, cognitive skills can be improved if the elder still has a working memory. If it is impaired, they will be unable to recall complex statements or remember things they heard or saw.
Elderly adults with significant speech impairments will need to speak with their doctor to find out what is causing it. A home care provider may also be needed to help your loved one communicate with others as a way to prevent isolation or depression from happening.