Suffering from a stroke or caring for a loved one who has can be difficult in of itself. However, the recovery process can often be further complicated with the emergence of side effects as a result of brain injury caused by the stroke. Since the month of May is Stroke Awareness Month, I am setting a spotlight on one of the most frustrating of these possible side effects, aphasia. Aphasia is defined as the loss of ability to understand or express speech and often leads to difficulty speaking, understanding when others are speaking to you, writing, and sometimes reading, as well. Although aphasia is related to other sorts of brain injury or damage, stroke is still the leading cause.
Having a family member with aphasia has taught me a great deal about patience and effective communication and I honestly believe that it has given me the greatest lesson in how to actually listen to someone when they talk. Given that we often take our speech and the speech of others for granted, we are often at a loss when our most beloved forms of language are rendered unhelpful because of a stroke or other brain injury.
With time and effort, you grow to develop your own system of communicating and figure out what works for you and your loved one and what doesn’t. Since it is extremely important to keep them involved in the conversation and avoid unintentionally isolating them, the below are a few tips from the National Aphasia Association on how to best communicate with people with aphasia,
- Talk to the person as an adult, not as a child.
- Try to minimize or eliminate background noise.
- Make sure you have the person’s attention before communicating.
- Encourage and use all modes of communication: speech, writing, and drawing.
- Try to ask questions that can be answered with “yes” or “no.”
- Give the people with aphasia ample time to express themselves verbally, and be sure to give them the time they need to respond to communication you initiate.
- Accept all communication attempts.
- Keep your own communication simple but adult.
- Simplify sentence structure and reduce your rate of speech.
- Keep your voice at a normal level and emphasize key words.
- Augment speech with gestures and visual aids when possible.
- Repeat statements when necessary.
- Resist the urge to finish their statements. (I found this to be the most important, because a good amount of the time, you will get it wrong and this will only frustrate the person trying to communicate with you, or discourage them from trying to verbalize altogether.)
- Show patience.
Additionally, for anyone recovering from a stroke, Catholic Health Services provides high-quality care and persistent therapy for stroke patients via our rehabilitation facilities as well as home health care. Having a lot of experience with such neurological conditions, especially stroke, is key to successful treatment and 80% of the Stroke patients treated at a Catholic Health Services Rehabilitation Hospital achieved outcomes exceeding national norms while 59% regained the functional independence necessary to return home.
Please visit www.catholichealthservices.org to learn more about how we can help rehabilitate after a stroke or other brain injury, or to learn about our other service lines. If you have any questions or personal input about this post, feel free to share with us in the comments section or join us on Facebook!