What is a language problem

Communication and language

Increased need to communicate and language problems in old age

Seniors usually have more time and fewer tasks than before. That is why communication is very important in old age: a chat with a neighbor, telling stories from the past, a coffee chat with old friends. The need for communication is increasing - this is especially true for people who are lonely and rarely find people to talk to. They often use every opportunity to communicate with others.

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The style of communication often changes with age. Older people quickly start telling stories and go back far into the past. This can sometimes be exhausting and incomprehensible for the interlocutor. Your own health or illness also often plays a major role in the stories.

Which can make communication difficult

In healthy older people, linguistic competence is generally fully preserved. However, some factors can affect communication - such as hearing loss or memory problems. Sometimes the senior can only process the information slowly or cannot concentrate on following the conversation. Such difficulties can lead to the person concerned avoiding conversations and isolating himself.

Dementia, stroke, depression: causes of speech disorders

Diseases such as dementia can impair language skills in old age. The further the disease progresses, the more the patient's communication skills decline. This not only applies to speaking, but also to understanding. Communication between the sick and the carer is becoming more and more difficult.

Other causes of speech disorders can be changes in the central nervous system (e.g. caused by a stroke, skull injuries, brain tumors), depression, but also side effects of medication. Pure speech disorders must be distinguished from speech disorders. A speech disorder is when one is unable to form speech sounds correctly and fluently. In contrast to the language disorder, motor skills are impaired here, but the ability to speak per se is intact.

Speech disorders can occur in the case of shortness of breath, neurological diseases such as multiple sclerosis or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or simply due to poorly fitting dentures. Speech and speech disorders can also be present together - for example in Parkinson's disease.

Please note:

Important for carers of speech or speech impaired people: Make it clear to yourself again and again that the person affected has difficulties expressing themselves - this has nothing to do directly with their mental abilities or intelligence.

Motivate to speak - with patience and empathy

Promoting communication among older people is important. This will prevent them from withdrawing further and further in the event of communication difficulties. It is helpful to know where the difficulties are coming from: Does the person concerned hear poorly? Then the caregiver can provide the right hearing aid and support him in using it. You can also do something about ill-fitting dentures.

>> You can find more information about dentures and prostheses here.
>> You can see what types of dentures there are here in the video.

In order to motivate older people with communication difficulties or language disorders to speak, the person you are speaking to should respond to them and include them in conversations as often as possible. The person affected should notice: I have patience with you! Clear sentences that are as short as possible contribute to better understanding. It is also important to encourage those affected to invite friends or to speak to them on the phone.

Authors and sources updated: 11/27/2014

  • Author: Nina Prell, medical editor, vitanet.de; medical quality assurance: Cornelia Sauter, doctor, vitanet.de;
  • Swell: Köther, Ilka (2011): THIEMEs care for the elderly; 3. Edition
  • Stefanie Grosch: Linguistic deficits in Parkinson's patients http://www.staff.uni-mainz.de/metoui/kognition/docs/Grosch01.pdf