We discussed Aphasia in our previous blog, covering the definition of Aphasia & some ideas and techniques for working with those who suffer from Aphasia. However, caregiving for someone with Aphasia can be complicated and frustrating for both parties.
Talking With/To Someone With Aphasia
It can be difficult to talk to someone with Aphasia. Here are some suggestions:
- Limit surrounding noises & distractions
- Make sure you look directly into the eyes & face of the person you’re speaking to (this often helps because they quickly learn to watch your face and expressions to help them understand what you are saying)
- Don’t scream at the person as Aphasia is an issue with connections in the brain & not in them hearing you (of course if they were hard of hearing before you should speak at the same loudness you did before they were affected with Aphasia)
- Keep your sentences simple but without speaking to them as if they are a child
- Limit task sentences to one at a time (remember there is difficulty in understanding words & with too many words/tasks given at once there will be confusion and frustration)
- Resist the natural urge to finish their sentence for them if they try to speak
- Allow them time to generate an understanding of what you have just said and, if needed, allow them to answer back
- Begin with simple questions that can be answered with yes or no when possible (you can include shaking your head in the direction as a means of communication depending upon the type of Aphasia you are working with)
- Use other means of communication along with speech (for example board cards, facial expressions, pointing to pictures or if they can, writing or typing out their thoughts)
Most of the time Aphasia is not something you’re anticipating in your family or your family life. Because Aphasia is created by an impairment of the brain itself it means that there are not only the issues of speaking that are going to be a challenge but other family adjustments, depending upon the role of the person afflicted.
- Don’t disassociate your loved one from decision makings they used to be a part of as they need to feel as though they are still needed and useful.
- Get involved in online or local Aphasia self-help groups so that you can not only vent but listen to what others are doing to move forward.
- Avoid major lifestyle changes that will cause undo stress to you and your loved one (moving, job changes, social events, etc.) unless you have no choice.
- Utilize an in-home caregiving service so that you have the opportunity to get out while a professional cares for your loved one.
- Don’t forget the value of touch. So often people are concentrating on the problems of speech, writing, and health issues that they forget the simple things like a hug, a brush against the cheek by the back of your hand or simply holding your loved one’s hand.
- Try to keep family life at home like it was before their health issue caused the Aphasia. This may mean continuing family dinners on Sunday or gathering together to watch your favorite show.
- Understand that there will be days that are more difficult than others. Some days will be worse than others; learn to celebrate the small steps and achievements
Everyone is Different
While most cases of Aphasia are similar, remember that everyone is different and will react differently. There is no right or wrong answer for everyone and your health team should treat you as an individual.
Your Health Team
Your health team should include, at the minimum, the following people:
- Your physician (a specialist for the condition that caused the Aphasia)
- Your speech therapist (ST)
- Your in-home caregiving team
- Your physical therapist (if needed)
- Your PCP or Primary Care Physician
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