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Language Difficulty/Expression/Word Finding | Common Signs

  • Has difficulty finding words when speaking
  • Uses descriptions in place of words (e.g. says "that thing you write with" instead of "pen")
  • Uses or substitutes words incorrectly (e.g. "desk" for "chair")
  • Has difficulty with pronunciation; familiar words don't sound right
  • Sentences don't sound right or are phrased incorrectly (don't make sense)
  • Has difficulty explaining a thought or idea
  • Relies on others to guess at the meaning of what he or she is saying
  • Complains of not being able to say what he or she means
  • Speaks very slowly
  • Participates less in conversations; only responds to direct questions
  • Reverts to first language while speaking or conversing
Language Difficulty/Expression/Word Finding | General Description

Communication involves a very complex web of abilities . If one segment of the web gets damaged, links between different areas of the web may not function properly. Mental associations, memories, recall and retrieval abilities are important components of the communication web and play a key role in language. One or more of these can be affected by Alzheimer's disease and lead to difficulty with verbal expression. A person with Alzheimer's disease may be able to understand what other people are saying, and may be able to respond to it. However, they are slow in verbal expression due to trouble finding words, and they may repeat comments or phrases. Others may have difficulty with verbal expression because they cannot maintain a train of thought, or they may have problems stringing ideas together. They may complain of not being able to say what they mean and may rely on others to guess or finish their thought. At its extreme, Alzheimer's disease can cause a person to revert back to a first language which they rarely use in conversing.

Some types of dementia chiefly affect language. There are two types of Frontotemporal dementia which start with language problems. One is progressive nonfluent aphasia (also referred to as primary progressive aphasia). A second is known as semantic dementia. Language abnormalities can be the first sign in vascular dementia, depending on where the initial stroke might be. Sometimes Alzheimer's disease begins as a language problem. Sometimes people with the type of Frontotemporal dementia that results in apathy can seem to have impaired language. Often, however, careful questioning will show that the problem is one of initiating language, not a language problem per se.

The first step in taking a more active role in symptom management is understanding how a symptom is affecting everyday life; the next step is communicating this knowledge to the care planning team and family members. SymptomGuideTM is designed with these goals in mind.

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See Also:
Symptom Library > Memory & Language > Repetitive Questions/ Stories
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Last updated December 7, 2018
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