Caring for older adults with aphasia can be a challenging task. The disease makes it difficult for seniors to interact with others and communicate their own needs. Here are a few tips for providing care to an elderly loved one with aphasia.
1. See a Speech-Language Pathologist
A speech-language pathologist (SLP) can assess your loved one’s language skills. During testing, the SLP may ask your parent to name objects, describe pictures, read short stories, answer questions, and write sentences. Your loved one’s responses could reveal the specific type of aphasia and the communication issues that need to be addressed. Then, the SLP can customize a treatment program to enhance your loved one’s communication abilities.
For aphasia therapy, the SLP creates realistic goals and sequential steps for meeting them. Ideally, you should attend your loved one’s therapy sessions to document the therapist’s suggestions and duplicate the exercises at home. You can also ask your parent’s caregiver to participate.
Through rehabilitative exercises, brain regions that are still intact can regain lost language functions. Depending on the extent of brain damage and rehab, recovery can continue to evolve. Typically, the timeline is from six weeks to two years after a stroke or other brain injury.
Speech therapy consists of four parts:
Education – learning about aphasia and supportive resources
Remediation – practicing exercises to restore language skills
Compensation – adopting alternative communication methods
Participation – using new skills during daily activities
If your elderly loved one is living with a serious medical condition and needs help managing the tasks of daily living, reach out to Home Care Assistance, an Anchorage senior care agency you can trust. Our caregivers are available 24/7, there are no hidden fees in our contracts, and we offer a 100% satisfaction guarantee on all of our in-home care services.
2. Modify Your Speaking Style
Eliminate background interference such as sounds from a TV or radio, speak slowly, and use simple terms. If your loved one has difficulty articulating, ask if you can suggest words to help. By obtaining permission rather than interrupting, you can defuse your loved one’s frustration and show respect.
When guiding an activity, give one instruction at a time, pausing afterward. Write down requests if it makes task completion easier. Use gestures and drawings to clarify communication, and ask questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no.
Wait patiently for responses, and observe your loved one’s facial expressions, voice tone, and body language. Refrain from correcting speech errors.
If you’re not fully grasping what your loved one’s trying to say, confirm what you did understand and pause where you didn’t. Aphasia doesn’t necessarily affect a senior’s intelligence, so your aging loved one is likely to feel offended if you talk to him or her like a child.
3. Use Communication Props
Telescopic Teachers Pointer - Your loved one can request items by simply touching them with a Telescopic Teachers Pointer.
Erasable White Board - If written communication is easier for your loved one, keep an erasable white board handy or use pencil and paper to draw objects and write words.
Talking Photo Album - A talking photo album is a battery-operated book containing multiple photos, each accompanied by a timed recording of 10-18 seconds. After you record a message for each page, your loved one can hear it by touching a button. With text cards inserted, your parent can use the album for making specific requests such as taking a nap.
Communication Picture Board - Use a whiteboard with images and symbols, to which your loved one points. Boards are available entitled I Am, I Want, and Activities of Daily Living.
Communication Book - When using a communication book, your loved one points to the existing pictures with a finger or stylus. Topics include basic needs, meal choices, personal care, feelings, activities, and places to go. Some books include alphabet pages, yes and no answers, and blank pages for personalizing comments.
Hiring a professional caregiver is a good way to help seniors manage the symptoms of a serious health issue. If your senior loved one needs hourly or live-in care, Anchorage Home Care Assistance can help. Our caregivers can assist with exercise and mobility, prepare nutritious meals, provide timely medication reminders, and help with a wide array of other important daily tasks.
4. Provide Aphasia Apps
If your loved one is comfortable with technology, buy a smartphone, tablet, or laptop. Then, he or she can access the aphasia apps recommended by the National Aphasia Association. Here are some of the most popular aphasia apps to consider.
Endorsed by the American Stroke Association, the Constant Therapy app customizes exercises for each user and promotes speech recovery. The database includes 75 activity categories, based on brain research. Constant Therapy works on any smartphone and tablet.
Lingraphica provides three different types of communication facilities for people with aphasia, each with language therapy activities, instant messaging, and email capabilities.
AllTalk is a laptop. If your loved one needs a hands-free device, get the compatible Eye Gaze platform. TouchTalk and MiniTalk are tablets with specialized software for users with aphasia. Medicare reimburses the cost of each device.
SmallTalk is a collection of free apps to aid communication and speech practice, including videos. SmallTalk works on the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.
TalkPath Therapy is a website designed by Lingraphica, with exercises to enhance language skills and cognition. Your loved one can access TalkPath for free on the Web, iPad, or with the TalkPath Therapy app. Speech therapists and other clinicians can manage your loved one’s treatment plans by linking with the account.
Seniors who face considerable difficulty with speech should consider using the Proloquo2Go app. Your loved one supplies the words, using letters and symbols. Then, the computer reads the sentences in the voice type selected. The app also includes prerecorded messages. Proloquo2Go works with the iPhone, iPod touch, and iPad.
5. Join a Support Group
Aphasia Recovery Connection (ARC) – ARC was started in 2012 by two stroke survivors. The organization has several members, and it offers numerous resources on aphasia care.
TalkPath News – Sponsored by Lingraphica, TalkPath News includes news articles that are read aloud for people with language disorders.
Aphasia Corner – As a leading online resource, Aphasia Corner offers plenty of useful information on aphasia symptoms and how to manage them.
Your loved one’s speech therapist can probably refer you to some groups in your area. Frequently, aphasia and stroke support groups are hosted by hospitals, senior centers, and libraries. If your loved one is receiving occupational or physical therapy, the therapist may also know of local aphasia support groups.
Another possibility is attending a support group at an aphasia center. Organized by Aphasia Access, these support groups focus on post-stroke aphasia rehab. If your loved one’s aphasia is stroke-related, call your local hospital and ask if they offer a stroke club. The American Heart Association also sponsors community stroke clubs.
6. Promote a Healthy Lifestyle
Managing aphasia is easier with adequate sleep, nutritious meals, and the caring company of friends and family members. Provide opportunities for your loved one to socialize regularly.
Do your best to follow daily routines, including periods of rest and relaxation. Determine the best time for home therapy based on your loved one’s alertness and stamina. Involve your parent in decisions that affect his or her life. Lastly, avoid being overprotective and encourage independence.
Aphasia is often the result of a stroke or another serious cognitive health issue. If your senior loved one has been diagnosed with a serious condition and needs help with tasks like meal prep, transportation, bathing, and grooming, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of senior care Anchorage, Alaska, families can trust. We also offer comprehensive care for seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. To schedule a free in-home consultation, give us a call at (907) 770-0907 today.