Is it normal for dementia patients to lose their ability to speak?

Srauniyar asked...

My mother was diagnosed with dementia about three years ago. What I notice is that she has lost an excessive amount of weight and memory, and now for the last 6 months she doesn't even talk. Someone has to feed and bathe her. Is it normal for dementia patients to lose their ability to speak? When I am talking to her, it seems that she understands everything but is not able to reply back. The only reply she gives me is her tears. What else going to happen to her? How is her situation is going to be in the near future and how long does she have?

Expert Answer

A social worker and geriatric consultant who specializes in dementia care, Joyce Simard is based in Land O' Lakes, Florida, and in Prague. She is a well-known speaker and has written two books, one focusing on end-of-life care and the other, entitled The Magic Tape Recorder, explaining aging, memory loss, and how children can be helpers to their elders.

It sounds as if your mother is depressed and she may need medication to help her get over this sadness. Depression is often seen in people with dementia.

If medication doesn't help elevate her mood, it may be that she has slipped into the last stage of her illness. In this stage it is normal to lose speech, and need to be fed and bathed. Consider having her assessed for hospice care as they may be able to help both of you. A hospice evaluation doesn't necessarily mean that she is going to die soon but it may mean that she has reached the stage of life where she, as well as you, her caregiver, could benefit from professional help easing through this stage. If she does not qualify for hospice, you will have at least made begun contact with them, and they can offer suggestions on how to keep your mother comfortable. Learning more about this time of life can help it be less frightening. I write about these things in my own book, The End-of-Life Namaste Care Program for People with Dementia.