Some Seniors Have Stuttered For All Their Life, But When Adult Stuttering Starts Suddenly, It Can Be A Symptom of a Medical Condition
Sudden stuttering in seniors is often a symptom of an underlying medical issue. If your elderly loved one develops impaired speech, it’s important to discover why. Pegasus home healthcare professionals in Reseda and elsewhere know there are many causes.
- Adding extra sounds before starting the next word
- Difficulty or silence when beginning to say a word
- Drawing out a sound within a word
- Pauses in the middle of a word
- Rapid burst of sounds, some of which might be intelligible
- Repetition of a sound
Individuals who stutter know what they want to say. They just aren’t able to say it smoothly.
Trying To Speak Can Be A Struggle
You may also notice other symptoms in your elderly loved one as they struggle to get the words out. These can include, but aren’t limited to:
- Balled fists
- Clenched or trembling jaws
- Extraneous or jerky facial, head, or body movements
- Eyes blinking rapidly, or reduced eye contact
- Lip tremors
- Obvious tension in their body
Observers have noted that symptoms can disappear when individuals are talking to themselves or singing.
Stuttering, also known as stammering, isn’t unusual in young children. Their difficulty is known as developmental stuttering. They frequently outgrow it by age five or so.
Approximately 1 percent don’t outgrow it and continue to stutter as adults. That is rarely a cause for alarm. Adult-onset dysfluency has been attributed to psychogenic causes or neurogenic causes and can be serious.
Psychogenic means that the difficulty is caused by an emotional problem, especially stress. It takes more than daily pressure to create a stammer. Traumatic events, such as the death of a spouse, can overload psychological defenses, causing speech to become dysfluent.
Research has shown that psychogenic stuttering is much rarer than previously thought. Scientists have discovered a genetic cause for some cases. Many experts now attribute nearly all sudden stuttering in adults to neurogenic sources.
Stroke is The Main Cause of Neurogenic Stuttering
Neurogenic means that something is interrupting the flow of signals from the brain that control speech. The most common cause of sudden stuttering in adults is a stroke. Other common causes include:
- Drugs, prescription or illegal
- Injury to the head
- Multiple sclerosis
- Parkinson’s disease
- Tumors or other growths
Anything that damages the central nervous system can interfere with speech fluency.
The central nervous system includes the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. Producing speech requires rapid coordination of thousands of neuromuscular actions. Any gap or break in the flow becomes an interruption in speech.
Prescription drugs that can interfere with brain signals include stimulants such as Ritalin and antidepressants such as Zoloft. Your stuttering senior needs to discuss their meds with their physician. It’s possible they can take lower dosages or a different drug.
Adults with developmental stuttering have much the same outward symptoms as they had as children. Adults with neurogenic stuttering differ in the details. These differences include:
- Children have the most difficulty with the first part of the word. Adult-onset stutterers have more difficulty in the middle part of the word.
- Children don’t use interjections as frequently as adults do. Interjections are sounds like uhm or ahh and long pauses between words or mid-word.
Depending on the cause of their dysfluency, some adults may be unaware that they are not speaking normally.
Treatment Depends On The Cause
The first step for sudden stuttering in a senior is a consultation with their doctor. As noted above, the problem might be a side effect of medications. A change in the prescription can eliminate the speech difficulty.
Therapy can help with medical conditions such as strokes. Individuals with brain injuries or tumors may recover normal speech over time. Unfortunately, the dysfluency will probably worsen in degenerative diseases such as MS.
It’s essential for your senior to be referred to a speech therapist or speech-language pathologist. That expert will evaluate what treatment will improve the ability to communicate effectively once the medical causes have been treated. That can include asking questions such as:
- When did the stuttering start
- What, if anything, has helped in the past
- What, if anything, makes the stuttering worse
- Does the dysfluency come and go
- How is it affecting social interactions
- Which words or sounds cause the most difficulty
The therapist will also ask about stress or anxiety caused by the dysfluency.
Once the medical causes have been treated, ongoing treatments for adult stuttering can include:
- Learning to speak more slowly until normal speech can be restored
- Using an electronic device (several kinds are available)
- Joining a support group
- Cognitive therapy that reduces stress
There is presently no medication available for dysfluency.
Other professionals who can help an individual cope with their speech difficulties include:
- Occupational therapists
- Physical therapists
- Respiratory therapists
Pegasus home healthcare includes services from these professionals, as well as speech therapists. Our team of experts tailors their services to fit the needs of each individual. We are available in Reseda and our other locations to provide the level of care your senior loved one needs.