According to the National Aphasia Association, about 5 million people in the United States have survived a stroke. Of these strokes, about one third result in aphasia.
Imagine having your full capacity of intelligence, but an impairment of language and communication. This impairment would affect you ability to listen, speak, read and/or write. These are the difficulties aphasia patients deal with each and every day.
These cases most often occur in older patients who suffer from a stroke or other traumatic brain injuries. When providing end-of-life care and support for a loved one who suffers from these symptoms, it is extremely important to continually remind yourself that it doesn’t affect their intelligence. They are very aware of what’s going on; they just have difficulty communicating what they are thinking.
If you’re one of these caregivers, here are four things you can try to improve the productivity of your relationship:
- Practice patience.
Dealing with the symptoms of aphasia can be frustrating for both the person with the condition and the caregiver. Remember, though — patience is a virtue. Realize that finding the best process for your loved one to communicate, will take time.
An aphasia caregiver often tries to finish the person with aphasia’s sentences, but this is something you really shouldn’t do. It’s easy to fall into that trap because they’re struggling and you want to help them speak. If you want to help, let them express themselves.
Try to make sure you have their attention before speaking. You may not be able to tell if it’s their speech or listening that’s the problem, so say, “Hi, it’s me,” and confirm they’re aware of you before you begin speaking.
- Don’t alienate your loved one.
Don’t keep your loved one away from people. Someone with aphasia should not feel isolated. It will only make the process more difficult than it needs to be.
Engage your loved one in routine activities whenever possible. Do not shield them from family or ignore them in a group conversation. Rather, try to involve them in family decision-making as much as possible. Keep them informed of events but avoid burdening them with day-to-day details. These exercises have the potential to help them develop mentally.
- Eliminate background noise.
Increase the focus on the interaction between caregiver and the person with aphasia by decreasing external stimuli. Make sure the television is off, radio is off, there aren’t a lot of people around, and you have the person’s full attention.
- Treat them normally.
This is one of the most important and difficult things to remember when dealing with someone who suffers from this condition. When encountering anyone with a disability or affliction, we tend to change our tone and how we speak — we can get unknowingly use “baby talk.” This person could potentially understand everything you’re saying. Talk to them like an adult unless there’s indication that they truly can’t understand. Don’t talk down to a person with aphasia, and give them time to speak. At the same time, keep communication simple, keep questions straightforward and get straight to the point to speed up the flow of communication.
Remembering these four things while supporting your loved one suffering from aphasia can not only make the aphasia caregiving process easier on your loved one, but more productive and heartening for you as well.
To learn more about end-of-life caregiving resources, visit the Crossroads Hospice Families/Caregivers blog.
If you found this information helpful, please share it with your network and community.
Copyright © 2015 Crossroads Hospice. All rights reserved.