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Losing Language

Today’s insight discusses understanding why your mother is not able to retrieve words very well, and why she may begin using bad language.

Transcription of Video:

Hi, I’m Deb Nygaard with Arthur’s Residential Care with today’s Insights From Arthurs.

Today I want to talk about language, and specifically body language. Sometimes you’re in a situation where you might say, “My mother said what?!?! Oh my goodness!” You are so surprised by some of the things that come out of her mouth. She might be saying swear words, racial slurs or just unkind things that she would have never said before.

When you look at a scan of the brain of a person with dementia, you will notice the decline everywhere, but the temporal lobes are where we hold our language. All of the nouns, definitions and working language are on the left temporal lobe. Things like the pattern of speech and the rhythm of speech are on the right temporal lobe.

People with the Alzheimer’s form of dementia lose their language especially quickly. Yet they are able to maintain the pattern of speech. So you might see someone in the later stages of dementia being able to speak using the right pattern of speech without using any real words. They retain the norms of social chit-chat even though they forget the language itself.

The other thing that they retain longer on their right side is rhythm. So they might retain things like The Lord’s Prayer, The Pledge of Allegiance, the Rosary, songs and music. Sometime people even in the final stages of dementia can still pull out words to songs because they retain all of those. So when your mother comes out with a word that is unkind — for example words like stupid, fat or things that she would have never said — recognize that she knows those words, just as the rest of us do, and the right temporal lobe is retaining them longer than other words. It gives you a better idea of what is happening in the disease process.

I’m Deb Nygaard with Arthur’s Residential Care.

Contact Deb Nygaard
Director of Development
Arthur’s Residential Care: 651-429-4798