Because Alzheimer’s affects individuals in different ways, at different rates, with different symptoms and at different times, it is impossible to say that no one with early-stage Alzheimer’s will ever lose the ability to talk. But it is not likely.
If loss of speech happens at all, it is typically occurs in mid- to late-stage Alzheimer’s. The brain deteriorates and systematically starts to shut down certain body functions, one of them being speech.
At first, a person might struggle with words, and then phrases or concepts. Eventually, entire sentences could be lost. There is also the possibility that someone will talk gibberish: He or she could be talking in full sentences but the words make no sense.
Complications of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s could include mini-strokes, which could lead to the loss of speech. These mini-strokes, also known as TIAs (for transient ischemic attacks), are not uncommon in people with dementia. Sometimes, strokes come first and a person develops dementia secondarily. Severe strokes can result in the loss of speech. In these cases, time spent with a speech therapist can result in regained speaking abilities.
It’s important to consult a doctor if speech is lost soon after a patient’s dementia/Alzheimer’s diagnosis. And, as always with such professionals, if you’re not satisfied with what you hear or how you’re treated, keep looking until you are.
Consulting a specialist such as a neurologist is very important, too. Mini-strokes often may be too small to detect with an MRI, experts remind. Doctors who are experienced will be able to determine diagnoses through observation and interviews with family members.
Although it is not common to lose speech with early-stage Alzheimer’s, you should always consult your physician whenever a medical condition like this is in question. Remember: Alzheimer’s treats people uniquely. While some characteristics — such as memory loss and insecurity — may be common, some symptoms may never appear in certain individuals. There are, for better or worse, few definites with Alzheimer’s.
For more information about Alzheimer’s and how it might affect a loved one, check out the free, Indispensable Alzheimer’s Resource Kit from The Law Offices of Anthony B. Ferraro, LLC.