The communication difficulty caused by aphasia can cause anger and
depression. There are also other effects of aphasia, including:
13 Strategies to help family members cope
- Join A Self-Help Group. There are support groups you can
attend locally and ones that are on the internet. [More
info on support groups]
- Make the survivor feel like a contributing member of the family by
involving them in family decisions and in their own recovery.
(Survivors can work on rehabilitation independently with aphasia
- Give the person time to talk. Don't speak for him/her.
- Help them understand you, by speaking more slowly and speaking in short,
- Use gestures (e.g., pantomime) to help the person with aphasia understand
- Communicate through touch.
- Sympathize with the frustration your loved one feels at not being
able to communicate effectively. Just knowing that you know how
they feel helps a lot.
- You may need to assume more responsibility for starting a conversation and
keeping it going. If a misunderstanding occurs, paraphrase or repeat more
simply. A speech-language pathologist can show you ways to help with newly
learned communication strategies. If an alternative form of communication is
recommended, such as a communication board, you should be directly involved
in the planning process.
- Take an active role in therapy. You can also help to provide therapy
at home. [Help for therapy at
- The caregiver must care for themselves as well. You won't be able to
provide care if you're exhausted and burned-out
-- get enough sleep and keep up your relationships with friends and
- Keep up with leisure activities. Consider this necessary rather than
- Avoid making other major life changes, like moving, at this time.
- They may fear failure. This can cause them to avoid social
interactions. Group therapy (with other aphasics) or online
support groups can provide a safe environment in which to gain
confidence. Software-based therapy
can provide an opportunity to fail without any embarrassment. (Only
the computer knows if he/she makes a mistake.
Family members also can help the person with aphasia to develop new skills to
compensate for the communication problems. Every interaction with the
survivor can be therapeutic
Let'em sweat -
Speech therapy is like exercising at the gym. At the gym, you want to
work hard enough to sweat, but not so hard that you injure yourself or fall down.
Independence and Success: A delicate balance
If the survivor is having difficulty, provide them with only the
minimum help they need to succeed. Remember the goal isn't for you
to understand them as much as it is for them to communicate with
you. The goal is their success. If you do it for them, it won't feel
like a success. For example, if the survivor is trying to say
"milk", and you think you know what they want (because they always
want milk), you could just put milk in front of them and see if that appeases
them. That solves the immediate problem of their desire for milk.
However, a more therapeutic alternative would be to help them communicate. You
- Give them some time to come up with the word, or an alternative
word. (Sometimes they can become nervous if they feel they are under
pressure to perform)
- Let them write it down, or spell it with letter tiles (form a Scrabble
game, or just written on pieces of cardboard or paper.
- Give them a list of words to choose from.
Tips for ongoing home therapy
- Continue to talk to the family member with aphasia.
- Keep the speech-language pathologist informed about the means of
communication that the family finds best.
- Talk to the person as an adult and not as a child.
- Have appropriate expectations for speech and language but accept
attempts at communication through whatever means possible rather than
demanding speech. The person with aphasia may be able to communicate
successfully using gestures rather than speech or as a supplement to speech.
- Create therapy momentum. Studies
show that, absent consistent therapy, the survivor's language skills
will not improve, and in fact they will decline. A taste of success
and improvement will likely motivate the survivor to continue working.
Likewise, a decline (due to lack of therapy) can leave them frustrated and
unwilling to work toward recovery. Remember, therapy can many forms:
with a speech therapist, with you, with a computer, etc.
Books you can purchase on aphasia therapy http://www.aphasia.org/NAAreadings.html