One of the most difficult things about being a new aphasia caregiver is learning how to communicate with your spouse, child, parent, sibling or other relative or acquaintance. It is not uncommon to feel confused and unsure of whether that person understands what you are saying.

The key thing to remember is that aphasia impacts a person’s language. It does NOT impact their intellect. So, here are seven quick tips to help you to better communicate with someone who has aphasia.

Tip #1: Be patient. People with aphasia can usually understand what you are saying, depending on the type and severity of aphasia. They sometimes just have difficulty communicating their message. Give them time to get their words out.

 

Tip #2: Ask “yes” and “no” questions. If you are having a difficult time in a conversation, simplify it by asking “yes” and “no” questions. For example: Do you need help with that lid? Do you have pain right now? Would you like to go to a movie? These types of questions get the conversation going, and you can eventually get more specific.

 

Tip #3: After “yes” and “no” questions, move on to “either/or” questions. After a while, “yes” and “no” questions will only get you so far. Giving an option between two things is a great next step. Here’s an example:

“Would you like to play cards?”

“Yes.”

“OK. Would you prefer Bridge or 500 Rummy?”

“Bridge.”

 

Tip #4: Speak in your normal voice, at a normal level. Unless you speak really softly or really quickly, using your regular voice at your usual level of projection is best. People with aphasia can hear just fine, in most cases.

 

Tip #5: Resist the urge to finish sentences for the person with aphasia. Unless he/she asks or urges you for help, allow the person with aphasia some time to find and formulate words. It’s fine to ask if she would like your help; if she says “no,” allow her to work a little longer. This is important to many people with aphasia and shows respect.

 

Tip #6: Feel free to use pen and paper or a whiteboard when communicating. A person with aphasia may want to use something to write or draw with. Oftentimes, he knows the first letter of the word he wishes to say. Having something to write on nearby can be the jump start he needs. As you draw and write, you can end up with a complete “story” at the end of the conversation. Both of you can see and review it to make sure all the details are correct.

 

Tip #7: Remove background noise (to the extent possible) when beginning a conversation with someone who has aphasia. This will be beneficial to both of you. He/she will need the quiet to formulate and find words. You may need to be able to hear the first time, as repeating several words or a phrase can be difficult for someone with aphasia.

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