By Laura Lauzon, Park Ridge Health Home Health
Aphasia is an impairment of language, affecting the comprehension or production of speech. It can also affect the ability to read or write. Aphasia is always due to an injury to the brain. The most common cause of aphasia is due to a stroke, particularly in older individuals. However, brain injuries resulting in aphasia may also arise from head trauma, brain tumors or from infections.
Some cases of aphasia may be so severe as to make communication with the patient almost impossible, or it can be very mild. Aphasia may affect a single aspect of language use, such as the ability to retrieve the names of objects, the ability to string words together into sentences, and even the ability to read. More commonly, multiple aspects of communication are impaired while some channels remain accessible for a limited exchange of information.
Speech Language Pathologists are clinicians who specialize in the assessment and treatment of people suffering from aphasia. It is the job of the Speech Language Pathologist to determine the amount of function available in each of the channels for the comprehension of language, and to assess the possibility that treatment might enhance the use of channels that are available.
Here are some tips for do’s and don’ts to help caregivers and loved ones of people who are aphasic.
- Look directly at the person when you are speaking to them
- Speak slowly and clearly, but use a normal tone of voice
- Use short sentences and stick to one topic at a time Ensure there is no background noise
- Reassure the person that you understand their frustrationWrite things down, if it will help
- Find out about the person's employment, interests and passions - now and before the stroke - and try to relate to these
- Give people a chance to say what they want to say, without jumping in or correcting them.
- Don't finish the person's sentences for them.
- Don't speak too fast. Don't push them too much.
- Don't assume that because the person is having difficulty understanding, they must be stupid.
- Don't "talk down" to the person, or speak to them as if they are a child.
- Don't keep "rabbiting", meaning jumping from one idea to another.
It is important for friends and family to continue to treat the person as an intelligent adult and to be aware that while their ability to communicate has changed, their identity has not. They are still who they are, with interests, skills and a past.
In addition, everyone is different, and the effects of aphasia vary. For this reason, there is not a "one-size-fits-all" solution.
Full recovery is not always possible, but patience, help, support and practice can go a long way in helping people to regain their communication skills after a stroke.
Sources: National Aphasia Association; firstname.lastname@example.org Life after stroke: Tips for recovering communication skills, Written by Yvette Brazier