3 Ways SLPs Are Involved In Alzheimer’s Disease Care
Alzheimer’s disease is a debilitating neurological disease that occurs when plaques build up within the brain tissue. As the disease progresses, cognitive function declines. While SLPs are traditionally thought to work with only speech and language, they play a large role in caring for someone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. SLPs can assess and intervene in the cognitive, psychological, and motor components of speech. In this blog post, we discuss 3 ways SLPs are involved in Alzheimer’s disease care.
1. ASSESSING: SLPs Perform Many Kinds of Useful Assessments
SLPs are trained to perform speech assessments. Over time as Alzheimer’s disease progresses, patients will have new difficulties with language. It is the role of the SLP to assess what current difficulties the patient is having and identify the cause(s). By using cognitive, psychological, and motor speech assessments, the SLP can design an individualized intervention plan for the patient as well as inform a patient’s care team as to how the disease is progressing in the patient’s brain.
2. TREATMENT: Rehabilitation & Maintenance Upkeep of Cognitive Functioning
When working with Alzheimer’s patients, SLPs may perform rehabilitation exercises in addition to activities that help maintain a patient’s level of cognitive functioning. SLPs may have their clients with Alzheimer’s disease perform cognitive exercises using a digital cognitive therapy tool or by using free cognitive activities for adults. By having their client with Alzheimer’s disease perform cognitively demanding and cognitively stimulating activities, SLPs can help their clients with Alzheimer’s disease slow the effects of cognitive decline. When cognitive skills are not used, they are easily lost. It is important for patients with Alzheimer’s disease to have as many cognitively stimulating activities as possible that are accessible to them. SLPs can provide cognitive rehabilitation therapy as well as cognitive stimulation for Alzheimer’s patients.
3. ADVOCATING: Establishing Best Practice Guidelines and Policies
SLPs play a critical role in reshaping managed care for elderly people. As the aging population increases, there will be more cases of Alzheimer’s disease. Using both clinical practice and research, SLPs can work with government and health authorities in establishing practice guidelines and policies that benefit this population. SLPs can publish technical reports that establish the interprofessional relationship between SLPs and neuropsychologists in the assessment and treatment of cognitively impaired individuals. Because the need for speech services among elderly people is growing, SLPs are advocating for improved coverage of services for both private and public clients.
SLPs do more than just speech therapy, especially when working with patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. SLPs are on the front lines of assessing, treating, and advocating for their clients with Alzheimer’s disease. SLP services have been studied for their efficacy in Alzheimer’s disease care, and have been found to be needed as part of managed care services for patients with Alzheimer’s disease. SLPs are still advocating for increased care coverage for SLP services, as the need of these services is growing as the general population is aging and developing Alzheimer’s disease. To learn more about the roles and responsibilities of SLPs working with healthy aging and clients with dementia and how you fit into a client’s care plan, you can visit ASHA’s webpage here.