Handling Post-Stroke Aphasia Communication Challenges
Having a stroke is undoubtedly a traumatic life event. A stroke is also called a “brain attack,” and can harm any part of the brain where oxygenated blood stops flowing which causes damage to the surrounding brain cells. These brain cells can never be repaired or replaced, making the after-effects of a stroke quite challenging to cope with and recover from. Strokes are most common in older people and depending on which area of the brain is affected, specific neurological defects may occur from the brain attack.
The left side of the brain that controls our ability to speak and understand language is known as “the communication center.” When a stroke impacts the communication center, aphasia may occur. Aphasia is a common disorder affecting stroke survivors, impacting as many as one out of every three people who have had one. This impacts the stroke survivor’s ability to understand/express language or deal with numbers. They may also have trouble creating sentences, by using incorrect words, repeating words or sentences, and may have limited ability to understand others.
Assessing Language Problems & Types of Aphasia Treatment Approaches
To ensure your loved one with aphasia recovers as much of their ability to communicate as possible, it’s critical to involve a speech therapist, also called a speech-language pathologist (SLP), early and often in the early healing period of the stroke.
An SLP can help a stroke survivor with aphasia by:
- Helping restore their ability to speak and comprehend language
- Increase their ability to communicate with better activity and participation
- Find compensatory strategies to find alternative ways of communicating
- Educate relatives about aphasia
Treating aphasia is a very big challenge compared to treating any mechanical problems resulting from a stroke, such as partial paralysis. Aphasia is much more abstract to treat, as the SLP must listen to the individual and test their abilities before developing an individualized treatment plan. The SLP must take time to understand what the problem is, as each stroke survivor’s brain injury differs from one person to the other. The SLP must then analyze whether the problem is a difficulty in understanding others or if it’s a more specific challenge in being able to express themselves.
Whether your loved one will regain their communication abilities and when they will do so depends on their individual circumstances. No matter the situation, recovery from a stroke requires patience, perseverance, and understanding.
How You Can Help Your Loved One Cope with the Effects of Aphasia
Although aphasia has no impact on the person’s intellect, their speech may become difficult to understand, fragmented, or jumbled. It can be frustrating to communicate with someone with aphasia and it is certainly frustrating to be the person who cannot speak to you like they used to. As the loved one of a stroke survivor it helps to be patient and learn new ways to communicate.
When you speak to someone with aphasia, remember to keep your questions, commands, and directions as simple as possible. Stroke survivors often need extra time not only to process information but also to form responses to your questions or commands. Avoid finishing their sentences for them or correcting any errors in their language, as this may cause annoyance or resentment on their behalf. Likewise, if you don’t understand what they’re trying to say to you, don’t pretend that you do, as this may cause the stroke survivor to become upset and feel patronized. If you are talking to them and they cannot find the right words to respond to you, ask them to describe the word, think of a similar word, think of a sound the word starts with, or point to an object. As you speak with them, you may also want to use visual references to support their understanding.
Consider an In-Home Caregiver for Help with Post-Stroke Aphasia
Helping care for a loved one with aphasia is a daunting prospect, particularly in the first few months of the onset of the condition. Their needs are complex and their condition may make them prone to moodiness and other challenging behaviors. As a family caregiver, you deserve respite, too. You may want to enlist the help of an in-home caregiver so your loved one can age in place and receive the proper care at home.
To discuss in-home caregiving with our Texas team, At Home Healthcare, please contact us today at (877) 959-9093.