Changes in the voice are a common early symptom of Parkinson’s, resulting in a low, soft, or hoarse sound. As Parkinson’s progresses, communication can become more and more difficult as a person struggles to be heard and understood in social settings.
Fortunately, there are vocal exercises that are very effective at improving volume and verbal expression. The Kensington Falls Church community hosts a communication club every Monday for those with Parkinson’s and their care partners.
With a focus on maintenance of communication skills, this exercise group provides the guidance and confidence needed to allow people with Parkinson’s to be heard. Learn more about how Parkinson’s disease affects communication, and how the communication club at The Kensington Falls Church can offer needed support.
Support from The Parkinson’s Foundation Communication Club
The range of communication difficulties that occur as a result of Parkinson’s disease include slurred, mumbled, quiet, or hoarse speech. Social situations with background noise or phone conversations can become difficult and frustrating to navigate.
A speech and language therapist with specialized training can help to stimulate the voice box muscles and speech mechanisms to improve vocal loudness. The Parkinson’s Foundation Communication Club, led by Licensed Speech-Language Therapist Susan Wranik, meets virtually every Monday to work through exercises designed to help attendees speak loudly and clearly.
Susan is a certified clinician in what is known as LSVT LOUD therapy. It’s designed in a group setting as a team effort to be loud — “one for all and all for one” — and also serves as a space to feel support from those who understand the unique role of a Parkinson’s caregiver.
Kensington Park is proud to sponsor other classes that are offered in partnership with the Parkinson’s Foundation of the National Capital Area. These classes include Energized Fitness, Boxing Class, as well as another Communications Club that is held on Fridays.
What is Parkinson’s disease?
Parkinson’s disease is a neurological disorder that occurs when nerve cells that produce dopamine in a certain area of the brain die or become impaired. The dopamine loss results in the symptoms related to movement, including tremors, stiffness, and problems with balance.
The exact cause of Parkinson’s is unknown, but experts believe it may have both genetic and environmental components.
The disease is progressive, and typically divided into five stages ranging from mild to severe symptoms. Some of the earliest symptoms include voice changes, due to the muscles and nerves affected by the disease.
How Parkinson’s disease affects vocalization and hearing
Not everyone with Parkinson’s will have difficulty communicating, but many do. It depends on how the disease affects the nerves and muscles controlling the voice, throat, tongue, face, and respiratory system.
Parkinson’s communication and speech difficulties may include:
- Reduced speech volume
- Slurred or fast speech
- Trouble articulating words
- Monotonous tone or hoarse voice
- Small handwriting
- Reduced body language and facial expressions
A speech-language therapist, and other types of therapy and exercise, can address these issues and help seniors increase their speech volume, clarity, and tone.
The disease also may affect the brain areas that control hearing and speech processing, so it is helpful if those around them learn more effective ways to communicate with this in mind.
Tips for effective Parkinson’s communication
Continue to encourage communication with your loved ones with Parkinson’s disease. It can become very frustrating, exhausting, and embarrassing for them, but practicing and keeping up with speech will help them maintain their skills for as long as possible.
Keep these tips in mind when communicating with your loved one:
- Sit face-to-face and maintain eye contact.
- Speak slowly and clearly, and encourage them to do the same.
- Ask basic questions that can be answered simply.
- Ask for clarification if you don’t understand something they said, and repeat back to them what you did understand.
- Minimize distractions, and keep group gatherings small.
- Find creative ways to gesture, act out, or use pictures to aid with communication.
- Allow them to get out their thoughts fully without interrupting or trying to finish their sentences.
It can take time to learn how to effectively communicate after your loved one is diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, so be patient with yourself and with your loved one as you both navigate this new territory.
The Kensington offers specialized care for Parkinson’s disease
At The Kensington Falls Church, We Promise to love and care for your family as we do our own. This means we take assisted living to a higher level, offering greater comfort, services, and care to your loved ones than any other community.
We offer on-site speech, physical, and occupational therapy, plus fitness programs, to help your loved ones maintain an optimal level of independence. Our expert and loving staff are able to provide all levels of care depending on individual needs.
Your loved ones can truly age in place in our community, whether they need light assistance or require long-term or late-stage memory care or Parkinson’s care. Our community also is perfect for aging couples who might enjoy less responsibilities and more social and life enrichment activities.
Please reach out to us today to learn more about our community and the wide range of services, enrichment, and resources we offer to you and your family.