Introducing aphasia tools to your patient
Supportive communication techniques can help people with aphasia express the coherent and meaningful ideas that are challenging to share when language is impaired. Aphasia is a language disorder typically caused by stroke. Aphasia can impact a person’s ability to speak, read, write, and comprehend language. When language is impaired, it can feel like being dropped in a foreign country without the ability to speak the language. In this scenario, it would be essential to rely on alternative methods of communication, like gesture, pointing, facial expressions, and pictures. With aphasia, alternative methods of communication are also essential. Aphasia communication tools provide a method of supporting understanding and expression so that communication is effective and easier. These include writing key words, gesturing, pointing, using pictures, asking yes/no questions to confirm choices, and providing multiple options.
“For people with aphasia, the struggle to communicate creates powerful emotions, such as anger and frustration, and feelings of isolation and depression” (Liechty, 2006). Cognitive level is consistently questioned because people with aphasia lack the vocabulary to communicate. This is why it is so important to show that you don’t question their intelligence – that you see their competence. You must earn trust and find what matters to them.
How do you do that?
Empower them with information. Tell them what happened, and tell them about aphasia – how aphasia impacts language, not intelligence. Show that you see the truth – that communication is the barrier, not cognition.
A friend was introducing a patient to the MedConcerns app recently. The patient immediately refused to even look at the app or any other communication boards or aphasia tools. What did this friend do next? They asked if it would be okay to talk about what has happened, including about aphasia, and brought up the MedConcerns aphasia education pages. The patient was open to learning more. They told the patient about how speaking, writing, reading, and understanding words can be challenging with aphasia, and that this can mask competence. That intelligence is intact – even though communication is challenging. They reviewed the pictures on the education page that demonstrate what can happen when a person with aphasia tries to speak, and what can happen when they are trying to understand lengthy or complicated sentences. This friend then reviewed the strategies that can help and how they’ve been using them so far to discuss stroke and aphasia in a way that is aphasia friendly.
What happened next?
The person with aphasia was open to trying out the app. They used the MedConcerns app and they led the conversation about their own health.
Start with education and begin by giving the person with aphasia a bit of power back. It matters to know that someone recognizes your strengths, is willing to tell you what happened in a way that is easily understood, and to know why supportive conversation techniques are being used.
Check out the MedConcerns education pages below ↓