Responding to Garbled Speech

How to Respond to Garbled Speech

If speech comes out garbled and you aren't sure what your loved one is trying to say, don't focus too much on figuring out the exact meaning. This may go against your natural impulses and make you feel like a failure. But it's freeing to realize that even without a perfect understanding of the message, you can still fashion a meaningful response that your loved one will appreciate.

Here's how:

  • Respond to the emotion behind the words. This approach is the best way to "get it right" and will make both of you feel better.

  • Use tone and expression to help you get at the real meaning.

  • If your loved one sounds agitated or upset, try to figure out the cause and respond to that. Could he or she be cold? Hungry? In need of toileting?

  • Be reassuring. If your loved one is smiling as he speaks but you have no idea what the words mean, smile back and offer a comment that's pleasant and innocuous in return. Take in and treasure the emotion itself.

  • Don't beat yourself up over the ineffectiveness of supplying paper or chalkboard or devising a new system of pointing to letters. Methods that work for stroke victims are useless with dementia, because your loved one can't learn a new system or manipulate writing materials.


7 months ago, said...

I did not find the suggestions helpful as using a chalk board etc when someone can no longer write does not work. The meaning of what the person is saying is hidden deep in their own AZ world. I find that after a big attempt changing the subject sometimes works.


almost 2 years ago, said...

Garbled speech is an every day thing for my MIL. When she tells us she sees things that aren't there, I just tell her she can see things I can't see and ask her to tell me about it. I don't understand what she is talking about most of the time. She is also looking at the discoloration on her arms and legs (due to age related poor circulation) and she thinks they are bugs. Anyone ever heard of that before?


almost 3 years ago, said...

Thank you for explaining that it is different for stroke victims than people with dementia.


almost 3 years ago, said...

Practical and specific advice on ways to respond to garbled speech.


about 3 years ago, said...

to those of you saying this info doesn't help... I think you need to understand there is no definitive answer, just suggestions. I suggest you just re-assure and offer lots of arm touches (gently) or hugs.


about 4 years ago, said...

Can't learn new system


about 4 years ago, said...

I say alot of uh huhs, or I know, its okay and i hold her in my arms, or take her hand or stop face her and give her a kiss. She is extememly affectionate and we are always holding hands, (mom that is), her arm in mine when walking, hugging, kisses (mom daughter type kisses), she leans her head on my shoulder. its all so very sweet. My precious mother.


about 4 years ago, said...

My mom will say "my head" or my legs or my feet. I suspect something is wrong with them and i press and look because something may be hurting. Mom cannot answer my questions (as you mentioned) but i need to some how get to what she is saying since something is probably hurting. This is the difficult part.


over 4 years ago, said...

Sending prayers your way!


almost 5 years ago, said...

I have tried these methods, but they don't work. He gets a thought or idea and does not let go. Very frustrating. Because of back and leg problems and no hobbies from the past he is mostly in bed fantasizing (sp). He was always a workaholic.


almost 5 years ago, said...

It offers a coping strategy and tells you what does not work


about 5 years ago, said...

I learned something, thanks!


about 5 years ago, said...

It is nice to know other have, and still are, experiencing the same issues. When you listen to a loved one speak, making no sense at all, is upsetting (not to mention frustrating) while you attempt to grasp the meaning of their conversation. After reading this article I will pay closer attention to the body language.


about 5 years ago, said...

I have found that if I touch my husband (entering late stage of Alzheimer's) bu rubbing his shoulders or back or even his hand...or giving him a hug, or just holding him in my arms....all sorts of wonderful response happens. I think they love to be acknowledged in this way. After all, the basic need of "touch" is something that is very important to a newborn...without touch, they don't develop as well. With A.D., reverting back to being childlike is one of their symptoms. Try it....I find it works wonders to calm him when agitated or a host of other emotions that we hope to spare them from.


about 5 years ago, said...

Not helpful to me because I have tried all this and it does not work. I have to figure out what business person he is talking about or if not that what he has lost. If it was as simple as food, toilet etc. it would be easier. I get so frustrated and he keeps on with the aggitation that sometimes it becomes a yelling match.


about 5 years ago, said...

This article was too....general, vague.....some more specific examples would've been really helpful. e.g. What do you mean by "respond to the emotion behind the words"?


about 5 years ago, said...

Just being there for my mom .. when that time comes. My dad was in the later stages and he was silent most of the time. When he did speak I just listened and held his hand or hugged him.


about 5 years ago, said...

That is all well and good about answering pleasantly and seeing expression, but when I don't answer what I think is appropiate, he just gets agitated. When he looks out the window and sees a football field, 4 boys and police cars or at night constantly sees people in our condo and doesn't like them, how do I respond and get him back in bed.


over 5 years ago, said...

My mother has recently been diagnosed with moderate alzhiemers. My dad had reached the severe stage of Alzhiemers, his speech was not garbled. His voice was clear and understanding. My dad had no concept of date, time, place and sequential events in his story. Could u elaborate on 'GARBLED'.. thanks