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Speaking to Someone with Aphasia: 5 Helpful Tips

Aphasia can make it difficult to communicate with someone in your care. Understand Aphasia better and how to engage those living with this disorder.

5 Helpful Tips to Use When Speaking to Someone with Aphasia

Nearly 180,000 Americans acquire Aphasia every year. It affects 1 in 250 people in the U.S.; however, many people have never even heard of it. Read on to find out more about Aphasia and how you can help loved ones who may have it.

What is Aphasia?

Aphasia is a neurological disorder that affects an individual’s ability to communicate. Some patients may have a severe inability to communicate, including difficulty speaking, understanding spoken language, and an inability to read or write. (source)

What Aphasia is NOT?

Aphasia does not affect an individual’s intelligence or development. It is a language deficit.

More mild cases of aphasia may mean an individual is unable to retrieve names of people and objects or has a hard time stringing simple sentences together.

What Causes Aphasia?

Aphasia is caused by injury to the brain such as a stroke. Brain injuries such as tumors, trauma and infections can also cause Aphasia. Aphasia is most common in older adults, but can occur at any age.

What’s the Difference Between Aphasia and Alzheimer’s?

Aphasia is often confused with Alzheimer’s. Both are a form of dementia.

Alzheimer’s is characterized by forgetfulness. Individuals with Alzheimer’s cannot remember certain people or events, but they don’t typically have trouble finding the right words to say or difficulty understanding conversation. (source)

Individuals with Aphasia often have trouble understanding what is being said to them or how to reply. They may also have difficulty reading and writing.

5 Helpful Tips When Speaking to Someone with Aphasia

  1. Before diving into a conversation, make sure you have the individual’s full attention.
  2. Keep your voice at a normal level, unless they indicate otherwise. Do not shout at them. Unless they have a hearing impairment, raising your voice will not help them understand more quickly.
  3. Communicate clearly and directly. Ask them “yes” or “no” questions. Do not give them too many options. If giving instructions, break them down into simple steps. Speak simply, but do not talk down to them.
  4. Be patient when waiting for their response. They may take longer than you expect to reply. If they are having a hard time understanding, use hand gestures, pointing or drawings to help them communicate.
  5. Engage them in conversations and activities. Remember that Aphasia is a communication disorder and not a reflection of intelligence. Foster independence in them and avoid being overprotective.

There are many types of Aphasia and they can range from mild to more severe. Some individuals with Aphasia can improve slowly over time. Understanding Aphasia and learning communication methods can help those with loved ones living with Aphasia.

Ted Wolfendale

Administrator at Dial-a-Nurse
Mr. Wolfendale is a graduate of Stetson University, and Stetson University School of Law, and was admitted to the Florida Bar in 1988. He is admitted to practice in the Middle district of Florida, is an active member of the Florida Health Law section, and Lee County Bar Association.

In 1995 he became Administrator of Dial-a-Nurse nursing agency, the oldest nursing agency in the Southwest Florida succeeding his mother who started the company 37 years ago. He is also President of Nevco, Inc., an educational healthcare training company begun in 1988.

Mr. Wolfendale has worked with the U.S. Department of Commerce on various Missions to improve the quality of life around the world by development of supportive healthcare programs. In 2005 he traveled with U.S. officials and addressed the Italian National Government assisting in the creation of Nurse Education mandates for that Country. In 2006 he was invited and spoke with the National Institutes of Continuing Education in Eastern Europe on healthcare education and developmental mandates, and most recently represented the United States at the European Union in Lake Balaton, Hungary in 2011. In 2014 he traveled with the U.S. Department of State to Singapore, Malaysia and Vietnam in an effort to improve caregiver knowledge and training.

Mr. Wolfendale has worked with a number of non-profits in contributing and creating curriculum to improve the quality of life in third-world countries since 2001, and notably created a successful program in Odessa, India that has been modeled in other areas of the world. In his backyard, he has worked with local Goodwill Industries to provide curriculum and training to underserved individuals who have obtained employment as a result of educational training. He was the Congressional appointment to the Governor's purple ribbon task force in 2013, and has worked to educate caregivers in all aspects of Alzheimer's training.
Ted Wolfendale

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