The forum is filled with people coming together to share valuable information. We’ve compiled experienced caregivers’ best tips and suggestions for facilitating communication with a loved one who has speech and voice disorders related to Parkinson’s.

How to Cope with Dysarthria and Communication Issues

“Support and social interaction are so important. For a while in the second stage, my dad lost his voice and we thought he’d never get it back. He would often speak in a whisper, which was very difficult for my mom, who is nearly deaf! She would ask him a question, and it would take a long time for him to answer because he was struggling to find the words. So, they used simple hand signals, like one finger for yes and two fingers for no.” –dodgerdog

“My husband has difficulty getting out full sentences. He only gets a word or two out at a time. I do find this is more of a problem later on in the day. He is better able to speak in the morning before he takes the PD meds. I was told that his medications cause dyskinesia (uncontrolled movements) of the vocal cords that make it hard to speak.” –bdeartrm

“I had my father’s doctor write a prescription for speech therapy so others and myself could understand him better. He did very well with the speech therapist, but he would not do vocal exercises at home. I thought he might be embarrassed if we heard him practicing, so we did it together.” –Birdawg

“My dad’s speech became progressively worse and for the past year, we have communicated via an iPad. There are a lot of great apps out there that help, and some even speak the message aloud after it is typed. As his Parkinson’s has progressed, even typing with a stylus on the iPad takes a while. It’s so frustrating for him. His mind is still sharp as a tack, but he has lost the ability to speak and his legs just won’t do what he wants them to do.” –Goldie1800

“My mother had difficulty speaking, and one thing I learned was to be patient and avoid trying to guess what she was trying to say. The guessing only frustrated her more. Make sure you are facing the person and listening closely when trying to communicate. Use hand gestures, and when you speak, do it slowly.” –PUZZLESNCARDS2

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“I suggest talking in a simple questions as much as possible so that your loved one can respond with a yes or no answer. You can also try to have them speak one word at a time instead of in complete sentences. For example, ‘I want a drink’ can be broken down to ‘drink.’ I used to look after a woman who was unable to speak clearly after an accident. I felt so bad when I couldn’t understand her, but she was very understanding. Her family had her learn a little sign language for everyday words and phrases like ‘thank you,’ ‘drink,’ etc. If I couldn’t figure it out, I would ask her to try to spell the word instead. I even went through the house, pointed out objects and had her say them a couple times so I could get used to what certain words sounded like coming from her. This process could be especially helpful if you end up hiring an in-home caregiver. It took me quite a while to create a system of understanding, but you will learn what works for you and your loved one. I would like to add that this can be upsetting, but try not to show it. Just stay calm and you will figure it out together.” –yellowfeever

“My husband was diagnosed with PD 20 years ago and his speech has slowly deteriorated. He has been receiving speech therapy for over two years now, but he just started LSVT (Lee Silverman Voice Treatments). We are one week into a 4-week, 4-session per day plan, and the results are already amazing. We’ve known about this program for years through our support group and Parkinson’s community, but, in the words of my husband, ‘Why didn’t we do this ages ago?’ ” –Pigsfly