One of the hardest things to deal with when a loved one suffers from aphasia is conversation. Suddenly, the person you found it so easy to talk to becomes someone you can barely communicate with at all. Today you’ll read about 9 communication tips for aphasia that can make conversation a lot easier.
Before we start, a quick reminder: Aphasia isn’t just about talking. It’s about listening and understanding, too. So some of these tips will be about helping your loved one express themselves. Others will be about making sure they understand what you’re talking about.
Communication Tips for Aphasia
#1: Get rid of as much ambient noise as you can.
The more noise, the harder it is for your loved one to hear and understand what you’re saying. So before you start talking, turn off the TV and switch off the stereo. If there are other people in the room who are talking, go to another room or, if it’s appropriate, ask them if they mind leaving. Then shut the door and turn your cellphone to vibrate.
#2: Make sure you have their attention.
If your loved only realizes you’re talking to them when you’re halfway into your third sentence, it’s going to be difficult if not impossible for them to catch on to what you’re saying. So before you start talking, make sure you have their attention. The best way to do that? Either make eye contact or just ask.
#3: Take your time.
One of the most important aphasia communication tips is to go slow. If your loved one is talking, sit back, relax and give them the feeling that you have all the time in the world for them to say what they want to say. Knowing you’re not impatient or rushed will allow them to relax and speak to the best of their ability.
#4: Keep it down.
It’s almost instinctive to raise our voices when the person we’re talking to doesn’t understand us. Try to suppress that instinct when you’re talking to your loved one with aphasia. The noise will only distract them and they might even interpret it as yelling. The problem isn’t that they don’t hear you; it’s that they can’t make sense of what you’re saying. So saying it louder only adds more static.
#5: Keep it simple.
When you’re talking to someone with aphasia, try to keep your sentences short and simple. Use the easiest words possible to express yourself without sounding silly. Stop between sentences so you can make sure your loved one understands what you’re trying to say before you go on.
#6: Let them talk.
Engaging in conversation takes a tremendous amount of willpower, concentration and effort for someone with aphasia. So even though it’s really tempting to finish your loved one’s sentences or to jump in with the word you know they mean but they’re struggling with, don’t. Respect their efforts and let them use whatever methods they’ve learned to express themselves. Only offer assistance if they ask for it.
#7: Ask simple questions.
Or rather, ask questions that have simple answers. Yes and no questions are the best. The less words your loved one needs to think about saying, the easier and more pleasant the conversation will be for them.
#8: Use body language and visual cues.
When you’re talking to someone with aphasia, remember that speech is only one mode of communication. Use body language and hand gestures to cue your loved one in as to what you’re saying. If your loved one enjoys using pictures and objects as aides, then do that, too. One caveat: When using picture cards and other visual cues, it’s really easy to slip into “preschool teacher voice” without even realizing it. Don’t. It will make your loved one feel like a fool. So take care that you speak to them in the same tone of voice you use for all the other adults in your life.
#9: Give credit and gratitude.
Remember, your loved one is still in the recovery stages after a stroke. This is a difficult time for them, and as much as they love you, sitting down and talking takes a lot of effort. Acknowledge that. Tell them how much you enjoyed the conversation and that you’re looking forward to more. Tell them how impressed you are with how far they’ve come and that you value the determination and hard work that got them there.
So the next time you want to talk to your loved one with aphasia, keep this list in mind. You may discover a whole new relationship.