Date: February 22, 2024

Author: Kateri Swavely-Verenna

For many seniors, a sudden onset of stuttering can be not just frustrating, but also concerning. It can be scary for them and startling for those around them. Sudden stuttering is usually the sign of a medical condition and working with a doctor to determine the underlying cause is important. This post explores the symptoms, causes, and potential treatments for sudden stuttering in elderly adults.

Symptoms of Stuttering

The medical term for stuttering is dysfluency. In addition to what we generally consider stuttering, it can also include:

  • Adding extra sounds before starting the next word

  • Difficulty or silence when beginning to say a word

  • Drawing out a sound within a word

  • Pauses in the middle of a word

  • Rapid burst of sounds, some of which might be intelligible

  • Repetition of a sound

What Causes Sudden Stuttering in Adults

Sudden stuttering in adults can be caused by a stroke, traumatic brain injury, or other brain disorder. It can also be caused by aphasia, a brain disorder in which a person has trouble speaking and understanding spoken language. If the word sounds familiar, you may recognize it from recent entertainment news, as famous actor Bruce Willis reportedly is suffering from it as he ages.

In some cases, changes in medication—especially those used to treat anxiety and depression or neurological conditions—can cause stuttering. A doctor or other healthcare professional can determine whether medication is the cause.

The sudden onset of stuttering would be very distressing for anyone, and emotional distress will likely worsen stuttering. A vicious circle results, as frustration over stuttering makes the stuttering worse.

If your loved one struggles with a stutter, or begin stuttering all of a sudden, watch for signs of frustration like clenched fists, and try to help your loved one remain calm.

Treatments for Sudden Stuttering in Elderly

Regardless of cause, the main treatment for almost every type of stuttering is speech therapy. Speech-language pathologists (SLPs) specialize in diagnosing and treating speech disorders, including stuttering. Through tailored exercises and techniques, SLPs can help improve fluency and confidence in communication. Speech therapy activities include exercising the tongue and mouth, practicing facial movements, and even playing word games. Medications can be a viable treatment option, with a prescriber usually recommending anti-anxiety or antidepressant options. Ultimately, though, speech therapy has the best success with reducing or eliminating stuttering.

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In addition to professional help, elderly adults can take steps on their own to manage stuttering in their daily lives. Techniques such as slowing down speech, practicing relaxation exercises, and using breathing techniques can all aid in smoother communication. Stuttering seniors will benefit from patience and understanding in a supportive environment where they are comfortable expressing themselves.

If stuttering cannot be completely mitigated, speech therapists are excellent at helping their patients learn to use alternative forms of communication if speech is too difficult or too frustrating for them. With today’s technology, there are a multitude of ways to assist communication and find the simplest and most comfortable way for an elderly person to communicate.

Sudden stuttering in elderly adults can be a complex issue stemming from various underlying causes. Whether it’s a result of neurological changes, medications, or other factors, stuttering can be successfully addressed with professional support, patience, and understanding.

Date: February 22, 2024

Author: Kateri Swavely-Verenna

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