Learning to communicate through the barriers of aphasia.
by Brian Baez, Caregiver Liaison
We have all been there before. You are just trying to get across a simple point and you hit a brick wall. Normally you can figure out a way to work around the communication block, but it's not the first time it's happened today, or even this hour. You're tired. It's been a long week at work, or the longest drive back from the beach or grocery store. It's not your fault, nor is it theirs. It's just that your loved one has aphasia and no matter how many times you try to rephrase, they can't seem to understand what you are trying to say, or express back to you their perspective. And sensing your frustration, their nerves and anxieties start to mount.
Before you know it, both of you have said things to each other that you obviously don't mean. And then, silence.
So what do you do when your fuse is ready to blow? In my own experience, that silence that comes is sometimes the best thing to happen. Give it a minute, or five. It gives you a chance to mentally regroup and realize who the real communication saboteur is. Not your loved one, but rather their aphasia. Apologies follow and a new opportunity to try again emerges. Somehow in that silence both parties are able to formulate the words that need to be spoken because the pressure has been released.
Maybe feelings got hurt in the preceding exchange. Now's the time to figure out what your loved one really meant. Just ask! They want to be understood! "What I heard was XYZ… Is that what you meant?" or "You used the word blank. Is that the word you trying to say?". These moments are not only healing, but strengthen the bond between the person with aphasia and their caregiver. They give each person a better understanding of how to communicate the other. Sometimes when trying to decipher the caregiver roadmap, signals can get crossed and roadblocks appear. There are always secondary routes to overcome the obstacle, and they're usually the most scenic!
**For more great tips on how to communicate with someone with aphasia, you can request your free Aphasia Communication Tip Cards HERE for yourself and to share!