Aphasia is one of the prevailing post-symptoms that many stroke survivors face. This condition is characterized by gradually increasing and prolonged speech impairment, and it goes beyond the initial slurring of words that appear when a stroke first occurs. According to the National Stroke Association, roughly 25% of survivors experience some form of aphasia during recovery, and for many, the condition remains permanent.
Unfortunately for patients and their families, there is no cure for aphasia, only treatment. As well, many health care providers tend to not adequately discuss the condition with stroke survivors, much less prepare them for how to live with it.
Unlike most other medical conditions, treatment for aphasia does not come in the form of prescription drugs or surgical intervention. Rather, therapeutic approaches are the best way for patients and their loved ones to adapt to the changes encompassed by speech impairment.
Learning new, more effective ways to communicate can be difficult, but it is an imperative step. It may be hard to gauge initially how much a patient’s speech and language comprehension abilities have suffered because of his or her stroke. This necessitates responding appropriately to get them to a point where they can independently communicate with other people.
Communicating in a Different Light
Given that traditional medical approaches are ineffective for overcoming the challenges posed by aphasia, namely the inability of a patient to recognize and interpret otherwise normal patterns of communication, alternative methods are essential. Not surprisingly, speech therapy has been shown to dramatically increase stroke survivors’ language comprehension skills. As such is one of the most highly recommended aphasia treatment plans. When asked, many health care providers will advise their patients to enroll in regular therapy classes, especially during the initial recovery phase.
Since strokes significantly alter a person’s lifestyle in a very short period, it can be difficult for someone who spoke perfectly just recently to seek help from a therapist or aide trained to remedy speech problems. Thus, a great way to get past this initial hurdle (this goes for primary caretaker, home and professional caregivers, and loved ones as well) is to understand therapy as a means of providing the tools and resources needed to live a healthy life in the wake of aphasia.
Accepting the reality of the situation is the first step on the road to recovery. If a person cannot physically speak or comprehend what certain phrases mean any more, it is completely normal to use sign language and to simplify the way in which conversations are framed.
In addition to asking basic direct, yes/no questions instead of those which require a great deal of comprehension and complex thought, pictures, writing and hand gestures can help tremendously with the communication process and are one of several communication strategies recommended by the National Aphasia Association. Having your loved one join group activities with fellow aphasia patients will also expose them to a new array of speech tools that they may not have learned in therapy or on their own. Anything is possible with the proper approach. Just remember to take things day by day and to not rush the recovery phase. Consistent practice will yield positive results.
What steps have you taken towards dealing with your loved one being diagnosed with Aphasia? Share with us in the comments below.
For more information, please review our Aphasia Resources.