7 Therapy Strategies to Improve Cognitive Impairment

Have you ever got into the car with a mental list of groceries to buy but then returned either empty-handed or with the wrong items? Or maybe you forgot the conversation with your sister earlier that day where she expressed that she needed help for the upcoming birthday party? Or maybe you lost track of the changes with your medications and are having difficulty determining what pill to take and how many times a day?

If you are experiencing any of the examples above, you may have a cognitive-communication deficit.

What is a Cognitive Impairment?

A cognitive impairment or cognitive communication disorder is the impairment of the cognitive processes- memory, reasoning, organization/planning, social behavior, attention- that impact how one functions in their everyday life. While it is common for individuals to experience some memory loss associated with aging, symptoms of cognitive-communication are often left unnoticed and untreated, thus making it difficult to determine when to seek help.

Below is a detailed breakdown on symptoms that individuals with cognitive-communication deficits may experience. It is possible that your loved one may exhibit any of the symptoms below:

  • Memory: One may have difficulty with the encoding, storage, and retrieval of memories. This can make it difficult to learn new information including names, locations, and new instructions.
  • Reasoning: One may have difficulty with problem solving scenarios and applying solutions to everyday activities. This can make it difficult when life throws you a lemon which requires one to quickly adapt to the new situation.
  • Organization/Planning: One may have difficulty organizing their thoughts and putting details together. When conversing with others, they might mix up the sequence of events when retelling the story.
  • Social Behavior: One may have difficulty following the rules of social behavior during conversation. For example, one might say inappropriate jokes at the wrong time or interrupt others abruptly.
  • Attention: One may have difficulty sustaining attention towards a task and can often become distracted with more than one stimuli is present (e.g. TV playing loudly while conversing with neighbor).

Cognitive-communication deficits can be crippling to one’s independence and functional ability with common tasks (e.g. planning your week, scheduling medical appointments, grocery shopping). It is important to note that your loved one may experience decreased insight into areas of deficit and may not recognize that they have these impairments. When your loved one has decreased insight, they are less likely to seek help.  

Cognitive Speech Therapy

If you have a loved one that exhibits any of the cognitive impairments above, they may benefit from a comprehensive speech and language evaluation to determine whether they are eligible for cognitive speech therapy.

At Speak Therapy, we utilize evidence-based practiced that are relevant to improving your quality of life and day to day activities. We prefer to use therapeutic activities that enhance your executive functioning skills in real-life activities versus addressing memory recall with a list of unrelated words.

Below are sample activities that we might address in cognitive speech therapy.

  • Medication Management
  • Balancing a checkbook
  • Social planning (appointments, events)
  • Managing grocery store receipts and Budgeting
  • Planning and executing important cooking recipes
  • Transportation Planning and Execution

While these are only a few sample activities, we personalize cognitive speech therapy to what’s important in YOUR life!

For those who know of individuals with cognitive impairment, below are some additional strategies on how to effectively communicate with them. As mentioned, cognitive impairments can change how one thinks and communicates and it is important to set them up for success.

1. Increased Procecessing Time

Allow increased processing time for the individual to better understand what has just been said to them.

2. Simplify Your Language

Simplify your use of language into shorter chunks. For example if you are asking them to help make dinner for tonight, try “did you get the ingredients” versus “did you get the salmon, the onions, the potatoes, and the broccoli.”

3. Slow Down

Slow down your speech. Make sure you are speaking at a slow rate so they can better process the information.

4. Write Things Down

Write down important instructions or information that you want them to remember. Despite repetition, individuals may have difficulty recalling. By writing the information down, it allows the individual to circle back to help refresh their memory.

5. Use Direct Language

When speaking to someone with cognitive communication deficits, it is important to be concise and direct. Do not scurry around the bush.

6. Avoid Overloading

Do not overload them with information. This can be overwhelming for the individual and creates a less likelihood of them recalling anything you just stated.

7. Don't Talk Down

Don’t talk down to them. This is extremely important since many individuals with cognitive-communication impairments may be unaware of their deficits. Despite their memory loss and difficulty with following social rules, it is important to make sure that they feel supported.

If you notice that your loved one is experiencing any of these cognitive-communication deficits, feel free to schedule a free 15 minute consultation to further discuss areas of concern. 

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