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How to care for resdients with aphasia

How to Care for Residents with Aphasia

Communication problems associated with hearing loss and dementia are very common for residents living in aged care facilities and 95% of residents live with at least one communication disorder.

Aphasia is a complex condition not widely known in the community, however, it can cause devastating communication loss. It is a language disorder that can occur suddenly after a stroke or head injury, or develop slowly from a growing brain tumour or disease.

Aphasia affects approximately one third of stroke survivors, and 60% of these people still experience the effects of aphasia twelve months after their stroke.

While intellect is commonly not affected, aphasia affects a person’s ability to express and understand written and spoken language. This might result in:

  • having trouble finding the right word when speaking
  • jumbling up the sounds when they speak, resulting in words being said incorrectly
  • having completely absent speech
  • having trouble understanding what others say
  • not being able to read or write letters, words or sentences
  • Severity can vary, however, most experience some level of difficulty with all of these skills.

Living with aphasia can cause depression, withdrawal, and reduced self-esteem and self-efficacy. Conversation is about connecting with people and we do this by engaging about interesting and relevant experiences.

There needs to be comprehension and expression from each communication partner. With aphasia, there is difficulty in these language areas, but it is not that language is lost, it is that it needs to be accessed differently.

Food Solutions speech pathologists are trained to assess and help people with aphasia and can give family and carers useful strategies to aid their communication.

These quick start tips from the work of Joanne Lasker and Kathryn Garret (2007) will support accessing conversation and connections.

  1. Write or Draw Key Words – When you are talking, write or draw key words to support your speech.
  2. Gesture Key Words – When you are talking, use gestures to illustrate a main point
  3. Show Related Photographs or Remnants – While you are talking, use photographs or some remnant of the experience or event you are talking about.
  4. Written Choices to Participate – Provide written or drawn choices to decide topic of conversation, thoughts about the topic, preferences about the topic, etc.
  5. Use Visual Strategies to Organize – Use a variety of visual strategies to organize conversations. Rating scales can give a degree of preferences or ideas on a topic. Use diagrams about a topic in terms of past information, present or future ideas on an experience or topic. Include items from or about an event to increase engagement. These items can also be used expressively to ‘say’ something about the topic.

Here are some examples used to help chat about Corona Virus: