Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Say What?


Part of the problem that comes with frontotemporal lobe dementia is difficulty with speech. For mom's dementia (semantic) it started with losing her ability to find the right words she needed to use. She's adapted by using particular words frequently in place of a variety of words. For example, if something is major, bad, excessive, etc she calls it "severe". If something is strange, funny, different, unusual, etc. it is all categorized as "weird". She says "too" during almost every sentence (often more than once in a sentence) when she can't think of the right words.

Over the past couple of months, mom's language has really taken a turn for the worst. Her speech is becoming more and more slurred and it's becoming more and more difficult to understand her. If a person is not familiar with her, they may not understand what she is trying to say. I am still able to piece together what she is trying to say...most of the time.

I tried to copy down some phrases with her slurring and mumbling, in order to give an example of just how bad it's getting. But it was very difficult to translate it and write out the sounds she was making. To give a brief description, she speaks very rapidly and misses a lot of sounds in words. Some words are completely mumbled into sounds more than words. She repeats things a lot, as if she is stuttering. Here's my best attempt in writing her speech (what she said to me the other night when I coughed in front of her):

"Why do you cah-cough like that a-ha-aha-aha you cah-ah-wa-a-ha-wa-ha you cough like that a why do you cough like that too?"

Intprets to: "Why do you cough like that? A-ha-aha-aha" (making a coughing noise).

The best way to get a glimpse at her language is through video. Please understand that I'm not posting this to make fun of my mom. I have many readers whose loved one suffers from the same disease as my mom and are behind her in their progression. This helps those readers to know what to expect and it also helps my readers who are in the professional field as caretakers or researchers of dementia (such as our UCLA team).

It will be hard to understand what she is talking about. So here's a little background: as she was stirring her evening dinner (Slim Fast), she was recalling the memory from many years ago when she took me to college (BYU-Idaho, which is a church school). After my parents had dropped me off in Idaho, they visited my dad's best friend in Oregon. At that time in her life, she had been gaining weight and started drinking Slim Fast as part of her diet regime to lose the weight. She often remembers this when she drinks her Slim Fast. Now...see if you can make any sense of what she's saying.


  1. It's really crazy how quickly this disease can progress. I only see my mom every 4-6 months, so I never really know what to expect each time. Does she seem to notice that she is speaking like this and does she get frustrated?

  2. Ashley, she doesn't really know what is going on. Sometimes she will realize that she can't remember words for things and she'll say her brain is stupid, but she doesn't appear to notice her slurring or rapid speech. Most of the time she is in her own little world without any awareness of dementia. Is your mom still talking at this point?

  3. No, she rarely talks. She can still make the right expressive sounds (like if she is playing with a child she will say "wooo or weeee" or something like that) but she doesn't really try to say words. Occasionally, if she feels like she really wants to say something, she will attempt it, but hardly ever gets the words out. It's surprising how many variants there are and even people with the same diagnosis can progress at such different rates and show different symptoms.