Improving Communication with Aphasia
As humans, we are social creatures, and one of the most important parts of our lives is the connections and bonds we share with others. Difficulty in communicating can be frustrating, and leave people feeling isolated and angry. For the more than two million Americans living with aphasia, a communication disorder caused by brain injury, infection, or neurological disorder, difficult communication is sadly the norm. Seniors who suffer from dementia, Parkinson’s, or other diseases, or who have experienced a stroke or a traumatic brain injury may develop aphasia. Aphasia does not affect intelligence or understanding, but rather the ability to produce and process language, both written and spoken.
There are multiple forms of aphasia that all present in slightly different ways. Some people may only have trouble finding the right words, but otherwise understand what is said to them. Others may speak fluently and easily, but the words are jumbled or wrong, and they may have trouble processing what other people say. No matter the exact type, there are several common signs and symptoms to look for.
- Difficulty finding the correct words for familiar people, places and objects
- Dropping words from sentences
- Making up or using incorrect words
- Trouble writing
- Difficult understanding or following conversation
These difficulties will of course be frustrating for the senior affected, but the family can get so as well.
The first, most important thing to remember is to be patient. Avoid rushing the person, or trying to speak for them. Give them time to express themselves and space in case they become agitated. Consider using aids to help them. Gathering pictures together in a book may help them communicate simple ideas by pointing at them, or if their aphasia is mostly spoken, giving them a white board to write on and then erase can help.