Maintaining Language Skills With Speech Therapy for Dementia

It can be jarring to see the changes in your loved one with dementia. Some aspects of their day-to-day life will become more difficult, including their ability to communicate. That’s why speech therapy is an essential tool in helping your loved one stay independent and comfortable.

Speech therapy is not only helpful to communication but other cognitive functions as well, like listening and memory. A speech therapist can also assist your loved one to eat and swallow by themselves if needed.

Let’s discuss just how speech therapy can help your loved one with dementia, what you can expect from the programs, and common questions about speech therapy. 

How Does Speech Therapy Help Dementia Patients?

Dementia affects a number of cognitive functions, like:

  • Memory
  • Attention
  • Visual Perception

These symptoms can often lead to disorientation, depression, and impaired judgment. However, speech therapy can help your loved one maintain their independence for longer and stimulate their cognitive abilities through activities that are related to the underlying cognitive domain.

There are three main targets for speech therapy for those with dementia.


As dementia continues to progress, your loved one will have trouble understanding what is being said to them as well as communicating their thoughts and feelings.

Speech therapists offer assistance in maintaining the ability to communicate, as well as offer suggestions for alternate methods of communication, like pictures or written words.


There are a number of aspects of cognition that a speech therapist can assist with. They will do activities with your loved one that will exercise their cognitive functions, like problem-solving, maintaining attention, and memory.


Though it’s a lesser-known function of speech therapists, they also assist your loved one with eating, drinking, and swallowing independently and safely.

This is particularly important during the later stages of the disease when chewing and swallowing become more challenging. The muscles and mechanisms in their throat will not function like they used to in order to protect their airway, which can cause them to choke. It only takes a small amount of food or liquid getting into their lungs to cause health complications.

Additionally, speech therapists provide counseling to educate you and your loved one about the disease and how it will affect their day-to-day lives. 

What Does a Speech Therapy Program Look Like?

While occupational and physical therapy focuses more on the overall physical aspects of day-to-day life, speech therapy’s goals are more focused specifically on speech and swallowing. There are many different ways to approach speech therapy, and what method is used can be discussed during your initial visit with your speech therapist.

Speech therapy for those with dementia typically includes:

  • Assessment
  • Reports
  • Reviews
  • Therapy programs
  • Support groups
  • Advice
  • Education

One particularly important assessment is given to gauge how much of a new learning capacity your loved one has. This will help decide on the most clinically appropriate and effective treatment plan.

Speech therapists will adapt their strategies and programs specifically to be tailored to your loved one and their needs.

caregiver assisting senior with drinking water

They are also adept at working with those with dysphagia, which is common in late-stage dementia.

To address dysphagia, during mealtime, they:

  • Manage cognitive challenges, like environmental modifications, alertness, attention, and behavioral modifications
  • Manage cognitive-based dysphagia, using oral acceptance, oral apraxia, and oral preparatory compensatory techniques, as well as adaptive equipment.

Speech Therapy for Dementia FAQs

How Often Should a Patient See a Speech Therapist?

It will depend on the circumstances of the need for speech therapy. However, speech therapists typically like to have sessions twice a week to start. 

How Long Does a Speech Therapy Session Usually Last?

A speech therapy session will usually last half an hour to an hour. Depending on the patient’s needs, they may go longer. 

What Are the Goals of Speech Therapy for Dementia?

Speech therapy for patients with dementia can help them articulate their thoughts and feelings, perform certain cognitive tasks, like following directions that have multiple steps, and maintain eating and drinking independently and safely. 

Is Speech Therapy Still Effective for Late-Stage Dementia?

Yes. Speech therapy for late-stage dementia is essential to helping the patient communicate and maintain their independence for as long as possible.

Speech Therapy With Terra Vista

At Terra Vista, your loved one’s health and safety are our top priority. That’s why we have programs specifically designed to allow our residents to benefit from speech therapy, physical exercise, socialization, and much more in a safe environment.

When your loved ones stay with us at Terra Vista, they’re a member of our family, and we are fully dedicated to providing them with exceptional care, an attentive environment, and enriching activities.

If you’re interested in learning more about our memory care center, call us at 630-793-0753, or contact us online.

Natalie Pic

Meet the Author


Natalie has compiled over eighteen years experience providing outstanding care to people with Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. In addition to being a certified Alzheimer’s and dementia care trainer, McFarland is a licensed continued education instructor for nurses and social workers through the Illinois Department of Professional Regulations. She has also developed several Alzheimer’s research partnerships. Included in those projects were Dr. Virginia Cruz, Ph.D., RN, Associate Professor of SIUE and Dr. George Grossberg, M.D., Medical Director of the Department of Psychiatry and Neurology at Saint Louis University. Natalie is a graduate of Southern Illinois University.