Speech and voice changes are common in Parkinson’s Disease, with an estimate that 89% of individuals with Parkinson’s undergo some change in communication abilities. The initial changes in voice and speech may be subtle and represent the insidious nature of the disease, which hovers in the background changing the way respiratory, voice, and speech muscles work. Unfortunately, patients often wait to pursue treatment until symptoms are more pronounced and, by that time, communication habits are more entrenched, improvements in voice are harder to attain, and requests for repetition, nagging, and frustration have become a part of the daily ritual for the non-Parkinson’s spouse/carepartner.

Talking to one’s spouse, which may have been a pleasurable and an emotionally fulfilling part of a couple’s relationship, may gradually disappear and become another burden associated with the disease.

While there are numerous sources for information regarding specific therapy techniques directed at improving voice and speech, such as the Lee Silverman Voice Treatment® program, there is not a lot of information directed at helping couples maintain or improve their pattern of communication when speech has become difficult. Communication that is full of directives: “you need to …” or “speak up…” can become parent-like or demeaning to the individual who may need extra time to formulate a thought or a response. A speech and voice impairment may be erroneously interpreted as a cognitive impairment, resulting in unfamiliar speakers directing conversation to the healthy spouse, while the individual with Parkinson’s sits passively and quietly on the sidelines. If hearing loss is an issue for either partner, as well as refusal to use a hearing aid, day to day communication is guaranteed to deteriorate further.

So, what are some things that individuals can do to improve their communication with a spouse  whose speech and voice have declined due to Parkinson’s?

  1. If you have been prescribed hearing aids, WEAR THEM!
  2. If you have a very soft voice, consider use of a personal voice amplifier, particularly in social settings where many other people are talking and there is background noise.
  3. Turn off the television, car radio, and other sources of noise that are competing to be heard.
  4. Sit side by side or face to face with the person you are speaking with. Use a hand signal or some other gesture to signal to the listener, that you are still thinking, still planning your response, that you need more time.
  5. If you are planning to enroll in speech therapy, sit as a couple with the therapist, and discuss the patient’s individual goals, as well as your goals, as a couple, for improving your communication at home.

Communication patterns in relationships are typically as unique as the individuals involved, with patterns of interacting established long before the emergence of a communication impairment. When, for instance, a wife says to me: “I wish my husband would talk more,” and I ask: “was he a big talker before his diagnosis?”, and she says: “Not really, he was always kind of a loner,” I am amused. How can we imagine that a man who barely communicated before his diagnosis of Parkinson’s will talk more, when speech and voice are now an effort?

Anyone with a recent diagnosis of Parkinson’s should embark on a program of voice strengthening to maintain and improve communication abilities. But even if your partner is now in the middle or late stages of the disease a qualified speech-language therapist may still be able to assist you in improving your day to day communication.

Mary Spremulli, MA, CCC-SLP resides in SW Florida, where she holds a speech- language pathology and nursing license with the mission of enlisting individuals in their treatment, and helping them express their personality & spirit through voice. She is founder of Voice Aerobics, LLC, a private practice, and is the author of Voice Aerobics DVD™, Voice Aerobics Grand Slam ™, and Voice Aerobics™ Songbirds CD, voice and exercise programs. The Voice Aerobics™ family of products blends the art and science of voice therapy into fun programs designed to be used independently by patients, and which may maximize function and reduce speech and voice symptoms associated with Parkinson’s Ms. Spremulli has worked in the health care field for over 25 years, and has lectured nationally and internationally on health related topics. Ms Spremulli has published in the area of Clinical Ethics and Patients Education. For more information, please visit http://www.voiceaerobicsdvd.com or http://voiceaerobicsdvd.blogspot.com.

Posted: 4/6/2011 6:00:00 AM by Cathy Whitlock


Browse current and archived blog articles written by caregivers, for caregivers.

November 2014
Resources for People Who Care for Someone with Parkinson’s

September 2014
I Don't Like Parkinson's, but I Love the People in My Life

August 2014
Baby, oh Baby?

July 2014
When the Caregiver Takes a Break

May 2014
Arriving at Thriving

March 2014
Adult Swim

February 2014
5 Disability Insurance Issues Worth Talking About

December 2013
DBS: How it changed darkness into light

November 2013
Family Caregivers Deserve Special Recognition

September 2013
Saving $49,500 for a Good Night’s Sleep

August 2013
Growing Up with Parkinson’s

July 2013
Moments

June 2013
I Wish I May, I Wish I Might

April 2013
5 Grab-and-Go Healthy Snacks for Parkinson's Caregivers

March 2013
5 Caregiving Tips for Lewy Body Dementia

January 2013
Lewy What?

November 2012
How to Support a Caregiving Spouse: Three Tips from My Other Caregiving Half

October 2012
Bobcats and Turtles

August 2012
Build a Ramp

July 2012
A Bathroom That Works

June 2012
Lessons in Care, Lessons in Time

May 2012
Welcome to CareZone

April 2012
Dignity and Empathy in Caregiving

March 2012
Notes from "Movers & Shakers with Parkinson": How You See Your Changing Roles

February 2012
PD Inpatient "Care": Inept, Indifferent, Incompetent, Insufficient, Injurious

January 2012
Caregiver Isolation as Cultural Disease

November 2011
How to Take Care of the Caregiver

September 2011
The Disregarded Costs of Agency Care

August 2011
7 Tips for Hiring Good Caregivers

July 2011
Parkinson's and Your Voice: The Essence of You

June 2011
7 Ways a Care Recipient Can Help Alleviate Caregiver Burnout

May 2011
Lessons Learned About Caregiving for a Person with Parkinson's and Alzheimer's Disease

April 2011
Communicating With Your Partner When Speech and Voice Are Declining

March 2011
Long Distance Caregiving

February 2011
Financial Planning Webinar for Caregivers

January 2011
Caregiving Tool: A Home Healthcare Management System

December 2010
Caregiver Sanity: Three Things I Try to Remember

November 2010
Appreciating Family Caregivers

May 2010
Good Body Mechanics for Caregivers by Kevin Lockette, PT

March 2010
Taking the First Step in Your Own Care by Carol Levine

Currently: 0 (0 ratings)

Print

Each month, we will feature a new column by caregivers on topic important for caregivers of people with Parkinson's disease. Read the latest column now.

Subscribe to this blog

RSS