Help Sheet 7

Stages of Language Breakdown

Communicating with an Alzheimer's patient is among the most difficult tasks a caregiver faces as the disease progresses. The following addresses the gradual deterioration of language abilities and stages in which they occur:


Early forgetful stages

1. Has difficulty understanding complex conversations, anecdotes, rapid speech or speech in noisy or distracting environments.
2. Unable to detect humor and sarcasm.
3. Follows directions when clearly stated.
4. Understands written cues.
5. Understands facial expressions, gestures and other non-verbal emotional cues.

Middle stages

1. Has trouble understanding ordinary conversation.
2. Unable to process rapid speech.
3. Has difficulty focusing and maintaining attention; is distracted by noise, multiple speakers.
4. Requires repetition of simple directions.
5. Can read mechanically but does not understand meaning of what is read.
6. Misses facial cues but retains perception of emotional meaning.


Early forgetful stages

1. Has some problems in thinking of what to say.
2. Takes longer for all language processing.
3. Experiences mild naming difficulties; may use related words such as "sugar" for "salt".
4. Often self-corrects word errors.
5. Uses good grammar and diction.

Middle stages:

1. Has substantial loss of naming and word-finding abilities, especially for abstract or specific words.
2. Uses more and more "related words".
3. Processes ideas into words more slowly.
4. Can't relate ideas or events in order.
5. Uses jargon or "gibberish".
6. May endlessly repeat questions, words or ideas.
7. Uses relatively good grammar and diction.


Early forgetful stages:

1. Digress from topic in conversation.
2. Tends to repeat himself.
3. May ramble on and on.
4. Relies heavily on cliches.
5. Gets along adequately in most social situations.

Middle stages:

1. Makes vague, empty, irrelevant conversation.
2. Asks fewer questions.
3. Is excessively self-oriented.
4. Does not initiate conversation.
5. Repeats ideas over and over again.
6. Withdraws from difficult social situations.

Lincoln General Hospital (c) copyright 1996

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