One of the most common consequences of a stroke is aphasia. This describes the damage to the parts of the brain that have to do with language. Aphasia is reported to affect about 30% of all stroke survivors.
It’s important to remember that aphasia doesn’t impact intelligence. What’s changed is a person’s ability to speak, or to find the right words. They also may have problems understanding conversations. This may make it more difficult for them to communicate with you. Here are some tips to make it easier for you, as well as someone who’s had a stroke.
If You’re Speaking to Someone Who has Aphasia
It’s crucial for you to keep in mind that while they may not communicate differently, people with aphasia are just as smart as they were before the stroke. They’re likely as frustrated as you are that communicating isn’t as easy as it used to be.
Be patient. Learn to allow more time for their response. You may be tempted to answer for them if you know what they’re going to say. That’s not wise. Let them do it. It’s going to take longer for them to get the words out. Let them know it’s okay, and that you’re not being judgmental.
Be concise. You’ll be able to accomplish more with short and simple sentences. Remember that aphasia can impact the cognitive areas of the brain. Let them know you’re willing to ask a question in a different way if it’s not making sense.
Confirm ideas. Be sure to sum up what you’ve heard. You don’t have to use the exact words, but it’ll be helpful to repeat what you believe they’re telling you.
Try alternatives. We live in a world full of gadgets. You may discover it’s easier for them to communicate with you using an iPad. Or, go old-fashioned and use a pen and paper.
Conversations with people who have aphasia are simply going to take more time. It’s going to be helpful to understand that some people will find the obstacles aphasia puts in their way to be very frustrating. Let them know it’s okay to tell you that they’re struggling with what they’re trying to tell you. Encourage them to keep trying, or to consider switching to a different method of communication.
Aphasia should not be a barrier to communication. If you understand the obstacles, it’s simply a road bump.