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How to Communicate With an Elderly Relative With Aphasia

If your aging loved one is struggling to communicate, it could be due to a medical condition many older people develop called aphasia. Aphasia interferes with their ability to speak, read, write and understand language. It usually occurs suddenly as the result of a stroke or head injury that damages portions of the brain that are responsible for language. But aphasia can also develop slowly, as the result of a brain tumor or a progressive neurological disease such as dementia. Both men and women are affected equally.

Finding ways to communicate with your elderly loved living with aphasia can be one of the most challenging aspects of being a caregiver. You are not alone if you are unsure whether they understand what you are saying, but he most important thing to keep in mind is that their language is affected by aphasia—not their intelligence.

Treatments such as speech therapy can help recover some speech and language functions over time, but many people continue to have problems communicating. Although communicating is often very difficult for people with aphasia, it is not impossible. Learning some strategies to make it easier for your loved one to communicate can help them maintain their independence and emotional health.

Tips for Communicating With Seniors With Aphasia

1. Ask Simple Questions

If you are having a difficult time communicating with your loved one, simplify your conversation by asking “yes” and “no” questions. For example, do you need assistance with that lid? Do you feel pain at the moment? Would you like to see a movie? You can become more specific as the conversation progresses.

2. Have Patience

Those affected by aphasia can usually understand what you are saying. Sometimes they just have trouble getting their point across. Give them time to speak before you respond.  Remember, they are likely just as frustrated as you are by the struggle – watch your body language and facial expressions!

3. Eliminate Distractions

Having a quiet space is necessary so that your loved one can formulate and find words without noise distraction. When someone has aphasia, it can be difficult for them to repeat multiple words or phrases, so it is important to listen carefully the first time they talk.

4. Alter Your Communication Styles

Sometimes writing is easier for a person with aphasia. Oftentimes, they know the first letter of what they are trying to say, so having something to write on nearby may be the best way for them to communicate.

Gesturing can also be helpful for your loved one to try, or even for yourself. If they are having trouble understanding you, use hand gestures and body language to further your point. Also, if your loved one uses specific gestures often, you may want to provide other family members or friends with a tutorial to understand these gestures.

5. Speak Naturally

It is generally best to use your regular voice at your usual projection unless you speak very softly or very quickly. In most cases, people with aphasia can hear just fine.

If your senior loved one has been diagnosed with a serious condition and needs help with basic day-to-day tasks, reach out to Oasis Senior Advisors. Contact us today by calling 475.619.4123 or 914.356.1901 or filling out this online form.

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Paul and Susan Doyle

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