Aphasia can make it difficult to talk to your loved one after a stroke or head injury. But there are a lot of ways that you can help them recover.
It can be hard to care for a loved one during the first few months of aphasia. Even with speech therapy, you can keep these simple tips to help you get into the right mindset.
Speak Plainly and Simply
Short sentences and phrases are good for communication. Simpler sentence structures are quicker to understand. It is helpful to also emphasize on the key words when you speak.
Don’t talk down to them since aphasia doesn’t affect their intelligence. Good communication depends on keeping your language simple.
Avoid Quick Questions and Topic Changes
Don’t pile on different topics at the same time, since it takes a bit of time to process them. If you don’t give your loved one enough time to respond, they won’t be able to.
The number of questions they have to reply to will make them overwhelmed. Make sure to stick to one at a time.
Frequently Use Yes or No Questions
If you can change it up to a Yes/No question, then that’s what you should do. It is easier to understand and respond to these questions. You only need to communicate yes or no if you use the question form and that doesn’t require your loved one to learn new words.
Do you want a blanket, or do you think the TV is too loud? You can use Yes/No questions for those types of simple queries. Sometimes yes/no may not be enough, so you can still ask open-ended questions, but use close-ended ones more frequently.
Give Time to Respond
Give your loved one enough time to respond when you speak. Giving them time to process what they heard will help them communicate.
Don’t interrupt them when they begin talking. People with aphasia may become anxious if they are rushed. You want to see their facial expression and body language, instead of completing their sentences instead. You will understand what they are trying to say better.
It is also useful to practice counting to 10 before you provide help with responses. It may take them more time to respond, but that will give them a bit of time to do so. If you don’t have time to wait, let them know that you will give them time later to finish the conversation. Don’t forget to return to them as you agreed!
Avoid Correcting Them
It will take a long time to effectively communicate. Mistakes will happen when they speak, but it’s important to not fixate on perfecting them.
While feedback is important in the learning process, it can cause frustration for your loved one. It might demotivate them if you insist on using perfect words the first time they say them. When they try to speak, always practice positive feedback and praise.
Keep Distractions to a Minimum
Think of ways to prepare for communicating with your loved one. Reducing background noise and keeping away visual distraction can be done to help.
As an example, you can reduce the noise by turning off the television. It’s a good idea to choose a location that isn’t crowded with people when you’re outdoors together. If people are walking outside the room, the doors to that room should be closed.
Reducing visual cues can also be about just cleaning up cluttered spaces. Both of you will be able to pay attention to each other’s gestures and facial expressions because of the lack of distraction.
Communicate to Understand
Knowing how to communicate with feedback is important. You can tell your loved one that you are unsure of what they’re saying. “I’m sorry, I don’t get what you’re saying yet. Let’s try again?” will work wonders.
You can use Yes/No questions instead of assuming what they are saying. Confirm what they mean with a follow-up query.
Use Other Means of Communication
Visual tools, materials and other non-verbal means can be used to communicate. Since it’s not used by other people, they may be hesitant to use Augmentative and Alternative Communication tools. But it’s more important that you fill in the gaps of your loved one’s communication abilities with such apps and tools. You have the option to use:
- facial expressions and gestures.
- drawing and visual aids
- speech generating devices
Whether it be paper and pens or a speech aid device, your loved one should always have the tools available to them. You can work with them to make a set of visual aids, like cards and pictures, that will help you understand each other.
Engage in Normal Speech Activities
They will be able to learn and practice the words that work often when they have normal conversations. It will also help you learn to communicate with them more naturally if you talk about family matters and major events.
Speak concisely and clearly, but use the same tone as a normal person. You aren’t talking to them like a child, so you should acknowledge them as they are. A person with aphasia knows what they want to say, but sometimes they don’t have enough means to say them.
It’s not impossible to navigate aphasia for you and your loved one. The above tips will help with your daily interactions.
You can get more instructions for your loved one with aphasia through your speech-language pathologist. Book your free consultation today to get started.