The speech therapist specializing in neurological disorders Valeria Bondarenko Gabets explains in this article how to help a person with aphasia through a caregiver’s guide. It provides guidelines for caregivers of people with aphasia and emphasizes the behaviors that should be avoided.
Aphasia, a condition that affects communication ability, can present unique challenges for both affected individuals and their caregivers. As a caregiver, your role is essential in providing emotional support and facilitating communication.
Maintaining a strong relationship between the caregiver and the patient, despite the communication difficulties associated with aphasia, not only improves the patient’s quality of life but also enriches the caregiver’s experience. Patience, understanding, and mutual commitment are fundamental pillars for overcoming communication challenges and cultivating an environment of continuous support.
In these situations, building trust is fundamental. A solid relationship based on trust allows the patient to feel secure in expressing their thoughts and needs, contributing to more effective communication. We must not forget that aphasia not only affects verbal communication but can also generate frustration and anxiety. A solid caregiver-patient relationship involves reciprocal emotional support. The caregiver acts as a beacon of support, providing comfort and understanding, while the patient feels emotionally supported.
Patience and empathy
We must always keep in mind the need to foster patience and empathy.
Patience and empathy are crucial components of an effective caregiver-patient relationship in cases of aphasia. By understanding the patient’s difficulties, the caregiver can cultivate an environment of mutual understanding, thus facilitating the overcoming of communication obstacles. We all know that in the face of a pathology, such as aphasia, patience and empathy are fundamental, especially to be able to adapt to the changing needs of the patient and their condition at any given moment. Maintaining open communication about daily experiences and challenges facilitates continuous adaptation and adjustment of support strategies.
Independence and autonomy
We must not forget that even though there is a limitation in communication, independence and autonomy should be present in the lives of people with aphasia. Providing opportunities for decision-making and personal expression helps maintain the patient’s dignity and sense of control over their life. However, in the face of significant challenges from the pathology, teamwork to overcome obstacles and find solutions creates an atmosphere of collaboration and shared strength.
In this article, we would like to present the fundamental guidelines for caring for people with aphasia and behaviors that should be crucially avoided.
How to help a person with aphasia? Guidelines for caregivers of people with aphasia
1. Clear and simple communication
Adapt your way of speaking to make it clear and straightforward. Use short and direct sentences, avoiding jargon. Provide context and patience to allow the person with aphasia to process the information.
2. Encourage nonverbal communication
Nonverbal communication, such as gestures and facial expressions, is a powerful tool. Encourage the person with aphasia to use these means to express their thoughts and ideas.
3. Establish consistent routines
Predictable routines provide security. Establish regular schedules for daily activities and ensure that the person is aware of them.
4. Encourage social participation
Encourage participation in social activities. This not only provides opportunities for language practice but also counteracts potential feelings of isolation.
5. Use supportive resources
Take advantage of tools such as applications, images, or communication boards to facilitate the expression of ideas.
6. Support speech rehabilitation
Collaborate with healthcare professionals to follow a speech rehabilitation plan. Participate in therapy sessions and practice exercises at home. Consistency is key to progress.
7. Seek support for caregivers
Caring for someone with aphasia can be challenging. Find support groups where you can share experiences and obtain emotional support.
8. Continuous education about aphasia
Constantly learn about aphasia to provide more informed and compassionate support.
Behaviors to avoid
- Avoid ignoring or minimizing the feelings of the patient with aphasia. Empathy is essential for building a trusting relationship.
- Do not speak to them in a childish manner. Treat the person with respect and use a normal tone of voice.
- Avoid constantly completing the sentences or words of the person with aphasia. Give them time to express themselves and do not interrupt.
- Avoid showing impatience or frustration. Patience is key, and expressing frustration can negatively affect the patient’s trust.
- Do not speak for them or prevent them from expressing themselves. Encourage and support their efforts to communicate, even if it takes longer.
- Avoid neglecting nonverbal communication. Facial expressions, gestures, and eye contact are crucial for effective communication.
- Do not overprotect or underestimate the patient’s independence. Encourage their autonomy and participation as much as possible.
- Not seeking professional help when necessary can slow down progress and affect your relationship with the patient with aphasia. The intervention of speech therapists or other professionals can be crucial in improving communication.
- Avoid not adapting the environment to facilitate communication. Use visual tools, such as images or communication boards, as needed.
- Caring for someone with aphasia can be emotionally demanding. Do not forget to take care of your emotional well-being, seek support, and take the time necessary to recharge.
The role of caregivers for people with aphasia is more than important. There is no doubt that caring for people with aphasia requires sensitivity and dedication. A relationship of trust and respect between both parties is crucial for good progress. Rehabilitation professionals are there to assist both patients with aphasia and their caregivers. Therefore, by following these guidelines and avoiding harmful behaviors, it is possible that together we can contribute significantly to the well-being and quality of life of those facing this condition.