Communicating with people with Aphasia

I recently put together a list of tips for communicating with people with aphasia (and dementia), which were published as part of a blog for Dementia Alliance International; I thought it would be useful posted here. It has become more important to me lately, as my language, speech and communication is changing, and I am told will only get worse.

Tips for Communicating with a Person with Aphasia

These tips may make it easier for you to understand and talk with people with any type of aphasia, and people with dementia more generally who may not have been diagnosed with a form of aphasia, but who do have communication disabilities. 

Aphasia and dementia do not equate to an intellectual disability, but rather is a language impairment or disability.

To help a person with aphasia communicate with you, try the following:

  1. Get their attention before you start speaking.
  2. Do not walk up unannounced as it may startle the person; some people have visual disabilities, and may not see you.
  3. Keep eye contact.
  4. Watch for body language and the gestures used.
  5. Talk in a quiet place. Turn off the TV or radio, and reduce other noise. Ask others in the area to do the same; if they can’t or won’t, then find another space.
  6. Keep your voice at a normal level. You do not need to talk louder unless you are asked to (not all people with aphasia or dementia are hearing impaired).
  7. Keep the words you use simple, but still suitable for adults.
  8. Do not “talk down” to a person with aphasia or dementia, as if having either means having intellectual deficits.
  9. Use shorter sentences, and if possible, repeat key words that are important for the person to understand.
  10. Slow down your speech, but not so much that is sounds insulting or patronising.
  11. Give the person time to speak; it may take them longer.
  12. Try not to finish sentences or find words for them; this poem may help explain why.
  13. If the aphasia is more advanced, try using drawings, gestures, writing, and facial expressions. People may understand those better than words.
  14. Ask the person to draw, write, or point if they are having trouble with words – and if they feel ocmfortable doing so.
  15. Ask more “yes” and “no” questions. Those are easier than questions that need to be answered using a lot of words or sentences.
  16. It is ok if the person makes mistakes They  may not be able to say everything perfectly, but neither may you.
  17. Let the person try to do things for themselves, even if they need to try multiple times.
  18. Help when help is asked for; unless it is dangerous there is no need to intervene unless asked to.

You can also register here for the next DAI “Meeting Of The Minds” Webinar, Dementia, Human Rights, Selfcare and COVID-19

10 thoughts on “Communicating with people with Aphasia

  1. Thank you Kate, ads someone who has Asphia from the beginning, everything you suggested works. The one of the most important for me is speak slowly and for the person speaking waiting for a response to be patient, not to fire questions at me, and I always say I have Asphia it may take me a few minutes to respond. Blessings for the gift of you

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    • Dear Susan, I am glad they resonate for you. The tips are relevant to anyoen with dementia, and to almost anyone with any kind of speech, language or communication disability. Hugs to you xx

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  2. Great information to help people understand. Years ago, coming out of a coma, I had lost immediate access to many memories, how to do things (I could wash my hair, but didn’t know how to use the towel to dry), and words for things (broccoli became ‘green trees’). My pre-coma decision-making involved using the words to make mental images of pros and cons, then noticing how I felt before deciding. Post-coma, deciding was a long process (I was relearning how to use my old process) It took me time to sort through what words meant, then choose ones to start with, and sometimes I coulnd’t make the picture or find the right feeling.Fortunately I have fully recovered! So I know a little bit about how it feels to be lost, confused, frustrated, and scared and even really angry.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks Kate, I find myself in the same place in my journey with Dementia. (Alzheimer’s. )

    Mithrani Mahadeva

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