Caring for Someone Who Can’t Speak After Stroke
Many people have some difficulty speaking after a stroke. This is called aphasia. Aphasia can also affect the person’s ability to understand speech, read, and write. Caring for a loved one with physical impairments can be very difficult. When you add aphasia to the equation, providing care can become a bit trickier.
If your loved one has trouble speaking after stroke, here are some things you can do to help support their communication.
Communicating with a Stroke Survivor with Aphasia
- Make sure you have the person’s attention before you start
- Be patient and give him or her time to speak
- Resist the urge to finish sentences or offer words
- Minimize or eliminate background noise (e.g. TV, radio, other people)
- Ask yes/no questions
- Speak in a normal voice at normal volume
- Allow the person time to process the information and respond
- Resist the temptation to answer questions for him or her
- Simplify your own sentence structure
- Reduce your rate of speech
- Don’t “talk down” to the person with aphasia (e.g. no “baby talk”)
- Write down keywords as you speak
- Draw pictures to emphasize what you are saying
- Use common, meaningful gestures
- Use visual supports (e.g. pictures on your phone, communication board, yes/no cards)
- Verify that you are both understanding and following the conversation
One of the most important things to remember when communicating with a person with aphasia is that, aphasia does not affect intellect. We always want to acknowledge that the person with aphasia is a competent adult who has thoughts and ideas to share. The deficit is not in their thinking, but in their ability to verbalize or produce these ideas and thoughts.