My dad is a stubborn, aging, covert narcissist. He currently has trouble replacing his hearing aid batteries and will not allow anyone to help him with this task. Recently, he has lost his ability to speak. I’m thinking it’s more “use it or lose it.” All my life, my dad was silent. He never talked much. I told his AL facility and his doctor. No response from either. My dad is refusing to put batteries in his hearing aids and has dyslexia so doesn’t like to write. He’s on no medication and has early dementia and up until recently could communicate very well. I’m wondering if anyone else has experienced this and what actions if any were taken? I got him throat lozenges but I haven’t seen him since last week. Is this a sign of dying? He eats periodically and drinks water regularly. He also has a daily protein shake. He’s on no medication and other than hearing loss, slight dementia and now, no voice, he is relatively healthy. He has a walker because he falls a lot. He’s all skin and bones, nearly skeletal. His very existence is awful. He just sits and sleeps all day and periodically eats in the dining room. He is unable to do any reading or sudoku puzzles anymore. He can’t hear and can’t talk-now what?

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My Husband was non verbal about the last 7 years of his life. Maybe a word here or there but never a conversation, rarely putting 2 words together.
My suspicion is that the damage done to his brain from both the Alzheimer's and suspected Vascular dementia effected his communication.
He was never much of a talker anyway. As the dementia progressed he talked less and less. I figured at first it was because he did not want to talk fearing that he would make a mistake or that people would think there was something "wrong"
Whatever the cause/reason I learned to deal with it.
I learned to anticipate what he would want. He was easy going and because of the dementia I eliminated choices when it cam to what he would want for a meal he would just eat what I made. Then again he always did that anyway.
He still liked to hold hands, he still watched the ball games. He did make noises. The noise would increase in volume the more excited he got or if I was on the phone he sometimes got louder either he wanted to participate or he wanted my attention.
Caregivers always commented that he knew when I got home because as soon as he heard the garage door open his noise level would increase.
You have to be a bit more intuitive and pay more attention...he will communicate in his own way. You just have to learn his language.
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Reply to Grandma1954
RedVanAnnie Dec 3, 2022
Oh, my. Your experience and insight are so helpful to hear.
By refusing to put batteries in his hearing aids, he could be telling you he doesn't want to communicate anymore. (Or he may not remember how to install the batteries.) Without sound input, his brain isn't functioning as it should. This leads to progression of dementia. You could get a hearing consult, but he might not cooperate. There are hearing aids that don't require batteries, they recharge on a device, but if he doesn't want to hear, he won't use them. Medication for depression might help, if you want to try that. But it looks like hospice might be a good idea at this point. He's 97, so I don't think I'd go to heroic measures. I'd keep things as peaceful as possible for him and let nature take its course. I'm so sorry this is happening to him and to you.
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Reply to Fawnby

I would ask his doctor for a referral for a speech/language pathologist to rule out various issues.

In the absence of anything treatable, I would consider having a consult with hospice.
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Reply to BarbBrooklyn
AnnReid Dec 3, 2022
I second this recommendation.

Speech/language/hearing/emotional/cognitive issues are sometimes multilayered, and even at 97, there can be issues that can be modified or otherwise addressed that can increase the client’s comfort level and function.

If you proceed, be sure he’s seen by someone trained and/or thoroughly familiar with geriatric clients.

Good luck with getting some help for him.
It's time for a hospice evaluation for your father, stat. If you get no response from his doctor, have him ambulanced to the ER for a medical work up, then they can recommend a hospice evaluation there if they find nothing urgently wrong with him.

Best of luck and I'm sorry you're both going through such a difficult situation.
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Reply to lealonnie1

I think its just part of the progression of Dementia. The man is 97. His body is giving out. I wouldn't ask for a speech consult. I may get Hospice involved even just to be evaluated. They can tell you if he is transitioning. If not speaking doesn't bother him, I would not worry about it. There are communication boards you could use with him.
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Reply to JoAnn29

My husband who is 84 years old lost his ability to talk 2 years ago. It’s very frustrating for a caregiver. We’ve had to watch his facial expression’s and his hand jesters, there basic but he use them constantly. So we have some way of communicating. For Example hand on head he had headache, pats his lap when he has to pee (if I ask do you have to go bathroom he doesn’t understand) so I have to ask do you need to pee. It takes time and patience but you probably can figure out basic needs. We also found if we talk about memories we both experienced together he seem more alert and once in awhile a word or two comes out. One of the best advice we have received has been to talk with a speech therapist we have learned so much from them. Hang in there you are a blessing to your dad.
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Reply to Evolove

In reseraching, I found:

Why Do I Suddenly Have Trouble Speaking?

"Extreme fatigue, anxiety or stress can cause speech problems. Also, painful migraines can partially incapacitate you, cause dizziness, numbness, or confusion, and restrict your ability to talk. . . . . However, there are more serious health conditions that cause speech disorders. People who have had a stroke often have slurred speech or are unable to talk at all. Multiple sclerosis and brain cancer are further possible causes of communication problems."

There may be psychological reasons or these as stated above. i.e.,I prsume if the stress lessens, the speech may come back. I do not have personal experience in this area. If it were me, I would focus on gentle touch (hand massage), if accepted, shoulder, neck massage. In other words, focus on the non-verbal.


Why do elderly lose their speech?

Normal aging causes many changes to occur that can affect speech. As we age, our muscles become weaker, and this includes muscles in the throat and jaw. Along with this, there can be glandular and tissue changes. All of these factors combined can change our speech processes as we age.


Understand the cause. Rarely do individuals stop talking for no reason. If your elderly relative loses the ability to speak, your first objective is likely to be to determine why. One or more of the following may be the culprit:

Brain injury.
Alzheimer’s disease.
Parkinson’s disease

If your loved one’s communication impairment comes from a treatable condition, you may be able to restore his or her speech by pursuing the correct diagnosis and treatment. You should watch for signs of nursing home abuseand neglect, however, as his or her sudden and unexplainable silence may be due to mistreatment. Try other communication techniques

Once you rule out both treatable conditions and nursing home abuse, you must look for other ways to communicate. Hopefully, your loved one has not lost his or her ability to hear. If he or she has not, you may be able to communicate verbally.
Touch therapy can also be extremely useful. With this approach, you tell your loved one you are going to touch his or her arms, shoulders, back or legs. Then, you look for signs of receptiveness to your touching. These may include changes in breathing, facial expressions or movements.

Listening to music with your loved one and reading books to him or her also help you to maintain verbal contact. Ultimately, though, anything you do to connect with your elderly relative is apt to make a difference.

I hope some of this helps.

Gena / Touch Matters
Helpful Answer (3)
Reply to TouchMatters

God Bless your Dad at age 97. This is the late and final phase of his lifespan. His doctor should evaluate his conditions. I'd say hospice level.
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Reply to Patathome01

I am glad your Dad can speak again - good news
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Reply to KNance72

It sounds like he is just losing his ability to speak because he can’t remember how to form the words in his mind. This happens with dementia and as people live very advanced years. Their brain cells diminish. Too, you said that your Dad was never a big communicator. Have him checked out by a doctor to rule out UTI, infections, cancer, etc. Also, look for signs of physical body pain. Dementia patients will often feel pain all over. Encourage eating and drinking but don’t force it on him. Towards the end of life, people stop eating and drinking as much. My Dad, Step-Father, MIL, and lady/friend I took care of all went through this one to two months before going to heaven. I lost them all this year. Hold your Dads hand, tell him that you care and that you will always be there for him, and repeat it each time you see him. Bring pictures from the past for him to look at. Talk about times that were enjoyable and that meant a lot to you and him. Just allow him to listen without expecting him to try and talk. I would guess he doesn’t remember anything from the day before, but he possibly does have some long term memories. Look for expressions in his eyes and on his face. It’s hard to watch our loved ones fade no matter how narcissistic
or stubborn they are. Sending prayers as you and your Dad go through this transition. It’s not easy.
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Reply to DianaGearhart

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