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Communication in Late-Stage Alzheimer's Disease: Relation to Functional Markers of Disease Severity

KIM, ESTHER S. PHD; BAYLES, KATHRYN A. PHD

FEATURE TOPIC: KEEPING IN TOUCH: COMMUNICATION AND CARING
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Alzheimer's disease, the leading cause of dementia, is a neurodegenerative process that diminishes one's ability to communicate. Two widely used measures of quantifying dementia severity, the Global Deterioration Scale and the Functional Assessment Staging scale, indicate that all verbal capacity is lost by the late stages of the disease. In this study the language skills of individuals with late-stage Alzheimer's disease were assessed using the Functional Linguistic Communication Inventory. Although there was variability in performance, all study participants produced more verbal language than would be predicted from either of these scales. These results call into question the characterization of verbal language on the Global Deterioration Scale and the Functional Assessment Staging scale.

Esther S. Kim, PhD, received her doctorate in Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences from the University of Arizona. Her research interests include cognitive-communicative disorders in adult neurogenic populations. She is a member of the ANCDS Dementia Practice Guidelines Writing Committee, and is currently a postdoctoral fellow working in the Aphasia Research Project at the University of Arizona.

Kathryn A. Bayles, PhD, is Professor Emerita at the University of Arizona. She is internationally known for her research, books, and standardized tests on the communication disorders of dementia and their diagnosis. She is a fellow in the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association and past president of the Academy of Neurologic Communication Disorders and Sciences.

Address correspondence to: Esther Kim, PhD, Department of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ 85721. E-mail: eskim@email.arizona.edu.

This work represents a master's thesis completed by the first author, and was supported in part by National Multipurpose Research and Training Center grant DC-01409. The authors express appreciation to all of the participants and their families and to Pélagie Beeson, PhD, for her comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript.

©2007Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.