Communication Tips for Caregivers of People with Aphasia

As a Speech-Language Pathologist, I receive a quarterly publication of our national association (American Speech-Language Hearing Association).  When I see something that catches my eye on aphasia, I like to repost it.  I recently came across this information from a previous publication.   Communication Tips for Caregivers of people with aphasia:  Be a partner- not a therapist.  Speak at a normal rate with pauses at the end of sentences.  Avoid “baby talk”.  Provide choices to get into the right category.  Be willing to accept any form of communication- gestures, writing, drawing, or speech.  And my favorite…Make sure you sit down at least once a day and have a casual conversation with your partner.  This is especially is important because it is common for a person suffering from aphasia to feel isolated.  Remember the person didn’t change, just their ability to communicate.

Intensive Aphasia Therapy for Stroke Patients Is Better

Approximately 60% of stroke survivors who have aphasia (language difficulty) continue to have difficulty more than 6 months after stroke.  This is called chronic aphasia.  Research is showing that it is better to receive more therapy within a shorter period of time as opposed to stretching therapy out with less frequency over a longer period of time.  For example, receiving therapy 4-5 days a week for 2 months is better than 2 days a week for 10 weeks.   This intensive aphasia therapy allows the brain to redistribute language function to an area of the brain not affected by stroke.   So if you are only able to receive therapy 2-3 times a week due to uncontrollable issues (insurance, transportation, Medicare), then look for other therapeutic options to enhance your therapy sessions such as computer programs,  Apps, or other therapy tools.  Check out our aphasia therapy dvds for one option.

Aphasia vs. Dysarthria

Many people call me saying that their loved one has suffered a stroke and his/her words are “slurred”.  Others say their loved one cannot get the right words out.  These conditions are different but both can result from a stroke or brain injury.  So, what is the difference between Aphasia and Dysarthria?  Dysarthria is a condition where the actual muscles used for speaking are weakened, causing someone’s speech to be slurred.  People may have difficulty understanding them, because the speech is so mumbled.  Aphasia is completely different.  Aphasia has to do with the ability to find the right words.  A person affected with aphasia often knows what they want to say, but just have difficulty coming up with the right word or words.  Their actual speech is clear, but they just aren’t fluent because of word finding difficulties.  Now without boring you, there are several types of aphasia, but this is what aphasia is in a nutshell.   And yes, these to conditions can coexist after a stroke or brain injury.  Treatment for each of these conditions are completely different.  Dysarthria is treated mostly through “oral motor exercises”, actual exercises for the muscles of the mouth (just like you do with Physical Therapy for your other muscles).   Aphasia treatment entails word finding exercises, not muscle movement exercises.   I  hope this helps clear these terms up a little.

Aphasia’s Emotional Side Effects

As a speech therapist, I work with individuals with aphasia almost every day.  In therapy, I work hard on helping each one improve his/her communication skills but I also am there as an outlet for the emotional side.  It is very frustrating for a person to be sitting at a table in a small room for an hour of his/her life trying to “relearn” how to talk.  A few weeks earlier, talking was a skill never thought about.  You just did it. Continue reading “Aphasia’s Emotional Side Effects” next