June 15, 2012

The ability to communicate through language is something that most of us take for granted. So when a loved one suffers from a loss of speech, caring for him or her can be frustrating and emotionally taxing. This post will cover some basics about what aphasia is and how to care for a loved one with aphasia.

What is Aphasia?

Aphasia is a communication disorder that results from damage to the language centers in the brain, such as those caused by a stroke, brain tumor, or dementia such as Alzheimer’s disease.

According to the National Aphasia Association, between 25 and 40 percent of those who have suffered a stroke experience aphasia. More than 6 million people in the United States today have survived a stroke, affecting 4 out of 5 American families. That number is expected to increase as the number of older adults in the general population increases. 

People with aphasia may have trouble communicating or understanding what others are trying to communicate to them. They may also have trouble reading, writing and using numbers. Aphasia does not affect intelligence, just the person’s ability to communicate, which can make it especially difficult to manage.

Caring for a Loved One with Aphasia

Caring for someone with aphasia can be frustrating for both the person with aphasia and the caregiver. When caring for a loved one with aphasia, keep these tips in mind:

  •     Speak with your normal tone and volume. Remember that the person’s intelligence is unaffected, and avoid patronizing them.
  •     Speak simply. Use yes or no questions when possible.
  •     Give the person time to respond in whatever way they can. Wait a few moments after you ask a question to give them time to respond.
  •     Help the person focus by limiting distractions. Turn off the TV and radio when trying to communicate with them.
  •     Help the person retain a sense of control. Ask family members and other caregiver to speak directly to the person. Ask them their opinions and thoughts about the news and family events. Never correct their speech.
  •     When you have trouble communicating with the person, try methods other than speech. Gestures and drawings can get the point across just as well.
  •     Take advantage of technology. Using a mouse to point or click on a computer is sometimes easier than speaking. As a caregiver, you can also show words or pictures on a computer screen to illustrate the messages you’re trying to convey.
  •     Do your best to appear calm and patient even when communication gets frustrating.
  •     Look into professional speech therapy groups in your area.

To learn more about aphasia, including different types of aphasia, read this article.