Ashleigh Beales

Making the right connections: Working with people with dementia and their families to reduce word finding difficulties in everyday communication

Ashleigh Beales headshot
Alzheimer's Australia Dementia Research Foundation Half-funded PhD Scholarship
In Progress
Project Snapshot

A common difficulty experienced by people with dementia is the inability to find the right words when speaking. This results in feelings of severe frustration and often leads to withdrawal from social situations. Such difficulties are frequently felt just as acutely by family members. This study proposes to build on a highly successful therapy program that has been piloted by the applicant that has shown to significantly improve the word finding abilities of people with one form of dementia, i.e. Primary Progressive Aphasia (PPA). The study proposes to further develop the novel intervention and carry out 20 intervention studies that involve 10 people with Alzheimer’s disease and 10 people with PPA. This intervention is unique in that it not only builds on our knowledge that people with PPA and Alzheimer’s disease do retain the ability to learn/relearn words, but it extends to providing people with successful strategies to use in conversation and everyday speaking situations. The intervention is also tailored to the needs of the individual and works closely with family members to ensure they are well supported. As well as assisting the person with dementia and their families, this study will provide important information for speech pathologists and other health professionals on what aspects of therapy work best and for whom. It will also assist in developing a better understanding of how language breaks down in dementia and how we might minimise the negative social implications for both those with dementia and their families.