Caring for Someone Who Can’t Speak After a 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.  

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