Aphasia can make it challenging to communicate with someone in your care. Understand Aphasia better and how to engage those living with this disorder.
Nearly 180,000 Americans acquire Aphasia every year. It affects 1 in 250 people in the U.S.; however, many people have never even heard of it. Read on to find out more about Aphasia and how you can help loved ones who may have it.
What is Aphasia?
Aphasia is a neurological disorder that affects an individual’s ability to communicate. Some patients may have a severe inability to communicate, including difficulty speaking, understanding spoken language, and an inability to read or write. (source)
What Aphasia is NOT?
Aphasia does not affect an individual’s intelligence or development. It is a language deficit.
More mild cases of Aphasia may mean an individual is unable to retrieve names of people and objects or has a hard time stringing simple sentences together.
What Causes Aphasia?
Aphasia is caused by injury to the brain, such as a stroke. Brain injuries, such as tumors, trauma, and infections, can also cause Aphasia. Aphasia is most common in older adults but can occur at any age.
What’s the Difference Between Aphasia and Alzheimer’s?
Aphasia is often confused with Alzheimer’s. Both are a form of dementia.
Alzheimer’s is characterized by forgetfulness. Individuals with Alzheimer’s cannot remember certain people or events, but they don’t typically have trouble finding the right words to say or difficulty understanding conversation. (source)
Individuals with Aphasia often have trouble understanding what is being said to them or how to reply. They may also have difficulty reading and writing.
5 Helpful Tips When Speaking to Someone with Aphasia
- Before diving into a conversation, make sure you have the individual’s full attention.
2. Keep your voice at a normal level, unless they indicate otherwise. Do not shout at them. Unless they have a hearing impairment, raising your voice will not help them understand more quickly.
3. Communicate clearly and directly. Ask them “yes” or “no” questions. Do not give them too many options. If giving instructions, break them down into simple steps. Speak simply, but do not talk down to them.
4. Be patient when waiting for their response. They may take longer than you expect to reply. If they are having a hard time understanding, use hand gestures, pointing, or drawings to help them communicate.
5. Engage them in conversations and activities. Remember that Aphasia is a communication disorder and not a reflection of intelligence. Foster independence in them and avoid being overprotective.
There are many types of Aphasia, and they can range from mild to more severe. Some individuals with Aphasia can improve slowly over time. Understanding Aphasia and learning communication methods can help those with loved ones living with Aphasia.
Home Care Tip:
Having a caregiver in the home during the day can allow for the time and patience needed to allow someone with Aphasia to express themselves. Then, when the family caregiver arrives in the evening, a caregiver can convey the day’s discussions so your loved one can avoid the frustration of having to repeat themselves.