Do you have a loved one that has suffered a stroke, and you’re finding it difficult to carry on a conversation with them? Do they repeatedly say, “I know what I want to say,” but can’t find the right words? Does it appear that your loved one is having difficulty understanding you? If you answered yes to any of these questions, they might have an acquired language disorder called aphasia. Here’s how you can help them communicate better.

Aphasia is a disorder that results from damage to the parts of the brain that control language. Often caused by a stroke, aphasia is an impaired ability to produce or comprehend language — or both. It ranges from difficulty finding words to being completely unable to speak, understand, read, and/or write.

Here are 10 tips for improving communication with aphasic individuals:

  • Continue to treat the aphasic patient as the mature adult that he or she is.
  • Reduce background noise (radio, other conversations, etc.).
  • Reduce visual distractions (TV, movement).
  • Be sure you have the person’s attention prior to speaking.
  • Keep messages short and simple. Speak slowly but naturally. Speaking louder does not increase understanding.
  • Give your loved one plenty of time to respond and try not to answer for them.
  • Use of gestures, facial cues and voice intonation will help the person understand the message, even if they do not understand the words.
  • Your loved one may sometimes respond with head nods and social niceties when he or she may not really understand. Do not assume comprehension.
  • Do not talk about the individual without including that person when they are present. Just as you do not assume comprehension, also do not assume lack of comprehension.
  • Encourage communication, and be patient.

Always remember that aphasia is a loss of language, not intellect! Your loved one is still the same person as before and desires the need and want to communicate successfully. Utilizing these strategies to support your loved one with aphasia can help alleviate frustrations during communication breakdowns for both you and your loved one.

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