What’s Wrong with Dad’s Speech?

marblesOn and off for a few months, my Dad’s speech has been garbled. For the last month, it seems as if he is trying to talk with a loose marble in his mouth. I raised the concern with Assisted Living and asked that they schedule a dental review. It’s been more than two months and I’m still waiting for that appointment to occur. The on staff doctor had seen him and didn’t find any issues.

In the meantime, I took my Dad for an annual physical outside of the retirement community system and the doctor just thought my Dad might be “tired.” After explaining that this has been a pretty regular change for my Dad, she has scheduled a follow-up with their Speech Pathologist. In the meantime, I found that my parents Assisted Living community has a Speech Pathologist on staff. I asked if she could visit with my Dad. It’s been a week and I haven’t heard back.

I continue to recognize that Assisted Living is designed to take care of basic Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and will manage critical care issues.  The smaller day-to-day issues that might proceed the critical issue are going unnoticed.

Today, my Dad commented that he was having trouble swallowing and stopped to spit several times during our visit. My Dad has never been a spitter.  I am continuing to follow-up with a variety of options. I have found no references to this being a normal symptom of any kind of dementia and would love to hear back from any readers if you have some suggestions on what might be going on. Asked.



13 thoughts on “What’s Wrong with Dad’s Speech?

  1. My advice is to have your dad evaluated by a neurologist. The excessive drooling, trouble swallowing and garbled speech could be signs of Parkinson’s Disease. Not all PD patients have tremors.. My mom doesn’t, but she had other signs (tiny handwriting, loss of sense of smell, restless legs among others) and has responded well to PD meds. I wouldn’t wait for the AL facility to make the appointment for him. Just go ahead and do it as soon as you can. Good luck, and keep us posted!

    1. Brilliant – not sure why:
      – that didn’t dawn on me
      – the doctor didn’t suggest
      – the Assisted Living staff didn’t suggest!

      Learning is a life-long skill I cherish. Thank you for helping me consider that it might be a new condition. It seemed too early to be related to his dementia – but you never know. Great info! Thank you.

  2. Colette is correct–there are numerous other neurological conditions that can lead to slurred speech (dysarthria) and/or swallowing problems (dysphagia), including Parkinson’s, ALS, small strokes, etc. The speech-pathologist can thoroughly examine the oral motor musculature and test for weakness, range of motion, asymmetries, etc. and can provide a report to any physicians involved and recommend a therapy plan, if warranted, depending on the underlying diagnosis. (Speech pathologists work on speech, language, swallowing, and cognitive issues). In addition, a neurologist may be able to determine if the speech and swallowing changes are due to one of these neurological causes. The primary doctor may be more inclined to make a neurology referral once they see the speech evaluation report, especially if they’re not hearing the slurred speech on their visits. You are being a great advocate, Kay!

  3. Is your father on medications that may cause excessive drooling? My father didn’t have an issue with excess saliva production until he entered the nursing home. His speech quality declined as well, but I attributed that to the medications the nursing home gave him.

    Those in the latter stages of dementia sometimes lose their ability to swallow because they forget how to. Swallowing is actually a mentally complex process (a palliative doctor taught me that). If other conditions like Parkinson’s are ruled out, a speech therapist can give your father a “swallow test” to determine if there are any issues.

    1. Hi – My Dad’s medications have not changed in over 6 months and none list speech or drooling in the possible side effects. Thanks for the tip on considering other conditions — I couldn’t find any of his symptoms really covered in a dementia write-up, but it could very well be something else.

      Sadly, it’s hard to know when my Mom complains since her short term memory is so unreliable. I’m not really sure what is fact or fiction. I can only process what I actually see.

  4. Dear Kay,
    Some dementias also have symptoms of swallowing and speech difficulties… I agree with others that a neurologist is your best next step.
    Sending hugs,

    1. Thank you – I have schedule the neurologist and am surprised it didn’t occur to me or that any doctors or nursing support suggested it first! Most speech issues seem to deal with lack of finding words rather than garbled speech. Hugs back!

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