It is estimated that around a million people suffer from aphasia in the US; it strikes both men and women of all ages, though individuals are most at-risk in middle-to-senior years. Aphasia is a medical condition that impacts language and communication. This is often present following a stroke or in the moderate stages of dementia, but it can also be caused by brain injury or infection. Some of the ways that aphasia affects speech include:
- Difficulty finding words.
- Difficulty following conversations.
- Forgetting the name of common objects or things.
- Forgetting the name of friends or acquaintances.
- Slowed or halting speech.
- Avoidance of social situations.
- Isolative behaviors.
Some ways to help seniors living with this condition include:
Engagement. Engagement, interaction, and conversation are the best treatment for individuals with language barriers. Some may be hesitant to engage in conversation with others due to their difficulties. Slow down what you say and indicate what you are going to talk about before starting lengthy conversations with folks that have aphasia.
Therapy. Speech therapists and doctors can help; aphasia is not always a permanent set-back. Depending on the cause of the aphasia and any other underlying medical conditions, individuals with aphasia may be able to regain some language skills that may have been episodically lost.
Props. Props and hand-gestures are very helpful for those with language barriers or aphasia. Use gestures to emphasize important points and to help the individual focus on what is being said.
Setting. Many individuals with aphasia are self-conscious or uncomfortable in unfamiliar environments or with strangers. Establishing a trusting rapport in a safe environment is key to recovery.
Support. Some rehabs and assisted-living situations can provide rehabilitation to help recover lost speech or language skills. These settings can be a great way for individuals suffering from injury-related aphasia to immerse themselves in the therapeutic environment and work on recovery. Home health services may also be a valuable resource for helping those with aphasia.
Follow-up. Patient should be assessed for additional signs of aphasia, as well as to determine if the patient is at risk for further decline, such as with some brain injuries and dementia. Follow-up care with providers is integral to further identify any additional risks and to evaluate any long-term issues or damage.
Don't keep quiet about aphasia just because it makes you uncomfortable; help those struggling with language barriers with these simple suggestions. Talk with someone like a senior home health provider with United Senior Services about other ways to help and treat aphasia, and how assisted-living facilities and residences might be a therapeutic approach to rehabilitation.