Parkinson’s disease (PD) is a progressive neurological movement disorder that affects over 10 million people around the world. Changes to voice and speech are common symptoms and difficulties communicating is reported as one of the most significant challenges that individuals with PD and their loved one’s face. These changes are commonly marked by a decrease in the volume and clarity of speech, rapid rate of speech, and difficulties efficiently organizing ideas and forming thoughts. Fortunately, there are several well-researched evidence-based treatments and techniques to support your or your loved one’s communication that will enhance speech and keep you connected to those people and activities that matter most.
Parkinson’s Disease and Communication Skills
Communication challenges are a common and frustrating symptom of PD. People with PD may develop quiet, fast, and monotone speech, imprecise articulation, and/or a hoarse vocal quality which can make speech difficult for others to hear and understand. Some may also struggle to participate in social activities due to a confluence of anxiety and physical challenges that hamper one’s ease and confidence communicating in social situations. In some instances, patients may develop a stutter . Challenges communicating can cause significant and valid social and emotional ramifications due to multiple challenges communicating messages and carrying out routine daily activities. Unfortunately, individuals living with PD tend to experience higher rates of depression and report negative impacts to quality of life.
The Role of Family and Friends
Supportive social networks are a critical component of maintaining life quality, emotional health, and optimizing health and rehabilitation outcomes. Those who feel connected to the people and activities that matter most to them tend to have greater support navigating the highs and lows of their health journey. A loved one’s assurance, listening ear, positive feedback, and enthusiasm makes it easier to stick to treatment regimens, notice progress, and experience successful outcomes which bolsters motivation as well as one’s confidence and optimism in their health management journey.
How to Communicate Effectively with a Parkinson’s Disease Patient
A number of strategies can facilitate improved ease and confidence communicating for those with PD:
- Provide adequate time to respond
- Eliminate external distractions such as the television or loud noises in the environment.
- Discuss upcoming social situations so individuals know what to expect and can plan speech or communication strategies accordingly
- Ask one thing at a time
- Verify understanding by summarizing, expanding, or paraphrasing what has been said to ensure you have correctly understood the message
- Validate by acknowledging experiences of frustration and challenges communicating
- Acknowledge competence by affirming you know what the person with PD wants to say
- Ensure the conversation sounds normal and adult by using an appropriate tone of voice and using humor as appropriate
- Encourage individuals with PD to use any strategies practiced in speech therapy including checking in with posture, using a loud, strong voice, or tapping each word
Why Your Voice Counts
Some of the most pervasive symptoms that affect communication are a reduced speaking volume and clarity of voice and speech which can contribute to embarrassment, irritation, and social isolation. Research indicates that 9 out of 10 individuals with PD will experience changes to their voice, speech, and communication. Being proactive in managing changes to voice and speech by seeking guidance from a licensed speech-language pathologist to receive evidence-based treatment exercises right away can lead to better long-term communication outcomes . Those who act early in seeking support experience gains sooner and maintain skills longer.
Research indicates that early intervention yields the most effective treatment results by strengthening and preserving motor-speech skills and preventing symptom progression.
Voice treatment for PD is well-researched and highly effective. LSVT LOUD is globally recognized as the gold standard treatment for voice and motor-speech in PD. Using a series of specific high effort, repetitious, and salient exercises, individuals with PD are taught to recalibrate mismatched perceptions of vocal loudness and learn to speak at normal, healthy, vocal loudness levels. Research has proven that these exercises that focus on increasing amplitude of movement through the singular cue “loud” have a positive spreading effect across the entire motor-speech symptom leading to improvements in articulation, expressivity, facial expression, and swallowing.
Those who have the encouragement and support of friends, family, and loved ones whether it’s via verbal encouragement to stay the course, feedback on improvements noticed, getting involved in home exercise programs, or helping carryover skills learned in therapy sessions to activities of daily such as going out for a meal, experience the best outcomes.
How Open Lines Speech and Communication Can Help
At Open Lines Speech and Communication, every clinician is specially trained and certified in LSVT LOUD treatment with supervision and mentorship by LSVT LOUD global clinical expert and Open Lines® founder and CEO, Dr. Jessica Galgano. Our team integrates the highest standards of evidence-based clinical treatments with a holistic care-focused approach by developing salient exercises that promote personal connections, combat feelings of isolation and depression and help each patient achieve greater confidence. At Open Lines®, our team recognizes that successful outcomes go beyond treatment exercises and must extend to supporting loved ones and care teams. Our clinicians ensure that care teams receive the counseling, training, education, and compassionate support they need to ensure everyone feels confident and successful supporting treatment goals.
The Benefits of Our Program for Those with Parkinson’s Disease
- Improved vocal loudness and voice quality so you can be heard and understood
- Improved breath support and control
- Improved intonation and expressivity in speech
- Improved speech clarity and intelligibility
- Greater ease and success communicating in real-world settings
- Greater social connection and participation
- Improved quality of life
Enlist the Help of Open Lines Speech and Communication Today
At Open Lines®, we are here to ensure you and your loved ones have the science-backed support you need to optimize communication and lead a life full of joy and satisfaction. All Open Lines® clinicians are specially trained in LSVT LOUD®, known internationally as the gold standard approach for respiratory-voice-speech disorders in people with Parkinson’s disease. The Open Lines Speech and Communication team is dedicated to helping those living with PD successfully navigate the challenges that accompany changes in communicating ensuring vital social connections are maintained, quality of life is upheld, and confidence is experienced. Contact us today to learn more!