11 doctors weighed in:

Isit true that people with alzheimer's dementia know who they are but simply can't speak?

11 doctors weighed in
Dr. David Utzschneider
Internal Medicine - Hospital-based practice
3 doctors agree

In brief: No

Sounds like you may be talking about someone with aphasia, where the part of the brain involved in understanding or generating speech isn't working, perhaps due to a stroke.
Alzheimer's patients have trouble with memories, so they know who they are and where they grew up, but can't remember what they had for breakfast.

In brief: No

Sounds like you may be talking about someone with aphasia, where the part of the brain involved in understanding or generating speech isn't working, perhaps due to a stroke.
Alzheimer's patients have trouble with memories, so they know who they are and where they grew up, but can't remember what they had for breakfast.
Dr. David Utzschneider
Dr. David Utzschneider
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1 comment
Dr. Jordan Balter
I would just add that in some cases of DAT patients develop depression, which we actually call "dementia with depression" and that some elderly people who get depressed appear to have dementia, which we call "pseudodementia." Alzheimer's patients certainly may have problems recalling the right words, using words incorrectly, etc., and may because of depression develop what we call "selective mutism." Forgetting one's primary language is not typical of Alzheimer's although people who speak a second language and may even have done so for many years do sometimes lose their fluency even without having a more neurologically based problem, like fluent or non fluent aphasias. I think both of the previous answers are on target and I would rule out a neurological deficit, stroke and depression. Although selective mutism is seen in both dementia and depression (and pseudodementia), if someone with uncomplicated Alzheimer's literally loses the ability to speak it would suggest to me that something very serious is going on, or that the dementia is very advanced. If the onset of the inability to speak is very rapid, I would suggest an immediate medical work-up with brain imaging. If it has been slow and progressive, and follows the course of memory loss, it may well be highly advanced Alzheimer's, but if the lack of ability to speak does not appear to be a part of the neurodegenerative process of DAT, I think Dr. Utzschneider is right in suspecting that there is something else going on.
Dr. Ladislav Volicer
Psychiatry - Geriatric
2 doctors agree

In brief: Possibly

It is hard to know if somebody who cannot speak knows who he/she is.
People with alzheimer's disease often consider themselves younger because they live in their past.

In brief: Possibly

It is hard to know if somebody who cannot speak knows who he/she is.
People with alzheimer's disease often consider themselves younger because they live in their past.
Dr. Ladislav Volicer
Dr. Ladislav Volicer
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Dr. Maureen Nash
Psychiatry - Geriatric
1 doctor agrees

In brief: Not usually

That is more common in other types of dementia though it is not impossible.
The first and primary deficit is problems forming new memories. Word finding problems become more notable over time. However speech is relatively preserved in alzheimer's.

In brief: Not usually

That is more common in other types of dementia though it is not impossible.
The first and primary deficit is problems forming new memories. Word finding problems become more notable over time. However speech is relatively preserved in alzheimer's.
Dr. Maureen Nash
Dr. Maureen Nash
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Dr. Daniel Anderson
Psychiatry
1 doctor agrees

In brief: Not exactly

Alzheimers dementia involves impairment in cognitive abilities and memory, and is progressive, ie it gets worse over time.
Most people with alzheimer's tend to retain their speaking ability. Whether they can recall their own name is usually a feature of how advanced their illness is, tending to occur in a more advanced state.

In brief: Not exactly

Alzheimers dementia involves impairment in cognitive abilities and memory, and is progressive, ie it gets worse over time.
Most people with alzheimer's tend to retain their speaking ability. Whether they can recall their own name is usually a feature of how advanced their illness is, tending to occur in a more advanced state.
Dr. Daniel Anderson
Dr. Daniel Anderson
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