What are Acquired Communication Disorders?

We find many older people with DSI have other communication problems that have been “hidden” by their dual sensory impairment. For example people with DSI who have suffered a stroke or have dementia making communication extremely challenging for them and those supporting them.

Acquired Communication Disorders (ACD) affect many older people, whose ability to communicate is consequently significantly affected. This could be due to a stroke leading to aphasia, their hearing and/ or sight deteriorating, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, or dementia.

Most people with an ACD also have a lifelong and often deteriorating condition. After initial help from speech and language therapy services, finding continuing support is often very difficult.

This leads to many people and their families and carers becoming isolated and frustrated as roles and responsibilities within the family change – the wage earner becomes the carer and cook, or they lose status now they can no longer work or communicate effectively.

Despite low awareness there is a clear and urgent need for training. In the UK it is estimated that of 150,000 new stroke victims each year, 50,000 have a communication problem; as many as 250,000 have aphasia (difficulty understanding or processing speech or language); around 120,000 people have Parkinson’s disease. These are conservative numbers and they rise dramatically with age, especially as more of us are living longer.


One of the biggest impacts on older people with ACD is isolation. They are cut-off from friends, family and society. One study found over 2/3rds of people with chronic aphasia saw their friends much less often whilst a third had no friends.

Depression is common amongst older people with ACD. With aphasia, depression is recorded in up to 60% of cases accompanied with an increased mortality rate amongst aphasic people. Research suggests depression and mortality rates are directly linked to their level of social isolation.

Carers of someone with ACD are expected to deal with increasingly complex conditions and many simply cannot cope as communication problems and more physical difficulties such as the inability to swallow (which can lead to further physical complications), can be the breaking point and see loved ones being placed in residential care at great cost to the public purse.

Hi-Vis UK training directly addresses these issues and will help to solve this problem for families, as they become able to continue providing care in the family home.

Findings from our sister project’s Social Return On Investment research highlight elderly people with DSI have other neurological conditions that cause additional communication difficulties.

We also find that, apart from those training to become speech and language therapists through the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, crucially important communication training is not widely available to the community or those providing frontline care.

Have you noticed your sight and hearing getting worse? Do you know an older person struggling with their sight and hearing?

As we get older most of us will have increasing difficulties with our sight and hearing, simply because we are living longer.  Chances are someone close to you – family, friend or neighbour, is finding life more challenging now both sight and hearing are getting much worse.  They don’t need to struggle alone. Or perhaps your sight and hearing isn’t as good these days

We are an independent charity providing free, impartial advice and support for older people with combined sight and hearing difficulties.  If you or someone you know whose sight and hearing is getting worse and who may need help or friendly advice, take a look at our simple checklist below, complete and return the form to us – it is completely confidential. We will get back to you as quickly as we can. Make sure you answer all the questions!

It could be the best 10 minutes you spend!

Did you know, if someone’s sight and hearing are both getting worse, they can ask to see a specially trained person from their local authority to look at their needs and talk about what might help?