"A year ago my husband had a stroke. We were told he has aphasia. We have returned home but he still has trouble talking. I get really frustrated because we can’t talk like we used to. How long until he is better?"
After a stroke, the relief of walking out the hospital as stroke survivors can be overwhelming. Many people talk about the relief of having their family member home only to feel overcome adjusting to the changes. As life attempts to return to normal, it can be a big realisation that your family members communication difficulties impact family life more than you had anticipated. It can be difficult adjusting to new roles and there can be a sense of grief acknowledging that your spouse or parent may not be able to fill the role they once could. The effort involved in communication can affect friend relationships and have the sense of isolation. It can be a hard feeling not knowing what will happen next and adjusting to this new reality.
Difficulty talking after a stroke is called aphasia. Aphasia results from damage to brain. It can affect a person’s ability to talk, understand, read, write or even use gestures. There is no quick answer for how long improvements can be expected or how much someone will improve. While change and recovery looks different for everyone, there are unique ways of communicating with your family member that can help a person with aphasia be involved.
There are some strategies that you can use to aid and encourage communication:
- Make sure you have the person with aphasia’s attention before you start talking
- Try and eliminate background noises when talking such as TV and radio noise
- Have one person at a time talking so the person with aphasia can keep up with the conversation
- Check in – make sure you are understanding the message correctly
- Simplify sentences and emphasis key words. Remember however, the person with aphasia is still as intelligent as before and need to be spoken to as an adult.
- Give the person time to speak. Try counting to 10 before you offer help.
- Use a pen and paper when you talk. Write words down and draw pictures.
- Celebrate the small things. Your family have been through a life changing experience and remember this by celebrating small achievements.
- Involve friends and wider family in these strategies. The more people who can support the person with aphasia, the better.
For assistance with aphasia and other communication difficulties after a stroke, Speech pathologists can provide family support, education and discuss rehabilitation options to fit with your family’s needs.