Aphasia: Facts & Tips For Better Communication

Most people have not heard about aphasia, nor do they know the term until someone in their family or a friend acquires aphasia.  Aphasia is an impairment of language, affecting the production or comprehension of speech and the ability to read or write.  Effective communication is crucial to comprehensive assessment of mental problems occurring in seniors.  Learning more about aphasia can be an excellent way to improve ones skills in providing care.

Aphasia is always due to injury to the brain.  It occurs most commonly from a stroke and particularly in older individuals. But brain injuries resulting in aphasia may also arise from head trauma, from brain tumors, or from infections.

The condition can be so severe as to make communication with the patient almost impossible, or it can be very mild. It may affect mainly a single aspect of language use, such as the ability to retrieve the names of objects, or the ability to put words together into sentences, or the ability to read. More commonly, however, multiple aspects of communication are impaired, while some channels remain accessible for a limited exchange of information. It is the job of the professional to determine the amount of function available in each of the channels for the comprehension of language, and to assess the possibility that treatment might enhance the use of the channels that are available.

Important for caregivers to keep in mind is the wide range of severity that aphasia can encompass.  Some people are able to understand others with almost no problems while their speaking is most affected.  Others experience the reverse scenario of interpreting speech being difficult while verbalization comes very easily.

First and foremost we must exercise patience in allowing the processing time needed by those affected with aphasia when communicating.  We are often compelled to “fill in the blank” for the person who is having trouble completing a thought.  Many times a greater amount of time must be dedicated to completing what would normally be a short discussion.  We must also not be quick to “reword” what we are saying when the aphasic person is having trouble understanding us.  Often times changing the wording only complicates things further.  Restating your questions / statements rather than rewording them will often produce better results in communication.