Lost in the purely physiological treatment of patients with aphasia, typically the adverse effect of a head injury or stroke, are the condition’s psychosocial implications. Inattention to a patient’s psychosocial well-being can lead to depression and a prolonged recovery.
However, a more in-depth look at both aphasia treatment and communication can help patients feel fulfilled and understood.
The Struggle to Communicate
Aphasia can present barriers to communication in numerous forms. Patients often have trouble speaking. Symptoms can be mild like repetition or more impactful, like perseveration, slow or halting speech, agrammatism, and dysprosody1.
Patients may also have difficulty with language and reading comprehension or expressing themselves through writing.
Understanding These Symptoms’ Psychosocial Impact
According to the theory of human-scale development, quality of life depends on nine fundamental needs. Many of these needs center on a sense of self and relationships. Aphasia can inhibit a patient’s fulfillment in these areas2.
Caregivers and loved ones need to understand that neither difficulty in communicating or language loss equates to a loss of cognition or ability. However, this perception of the patient can further contribute to their challenge in rebuilding a sense of self.
Essentially, the communication barriers faced by aphasia patients negatively impact their ability to redevelop their own identity and reach a mutual understanding and recognition with those they communicate with. As a result, patients can lose confidence, experience isolation, and generally struggle with the kinds of expression necessary to improve quality of life.
Leveraging Treatment to Encourage Need Fulfillment
Many tactics can be employed to promote an aphasia patient’s self-worth, and fulfilling these needs starts with effective communication techniques3. Patients should be treated with the same respect given a person unaffected by language barriers. Also, avoid crossing the line into patronization, utilize eye contact, and keep your attitude upbeat and friendly.
Simple, declarative statements should be followed by plenty of time for the patient to respond. Avoid interruption, be patient, and take responsibility for any breakdowns in communication. Complement verbal communication by employing other methods like utilizing photos, leaning on written communication when helpful, and using gestures.
Be certain written information is tailored to the aphasia patient by including plenty of white space, employing key headings and bolding for emphasis, and using a large font size. Also, providing verification will help assure patients that you understand and that you’re respecting the relationship by giving them your undivided attention. Finally, it’s also essential to control the environment—quiet places and the elimination of distractions can help put the patient more at ease.
Through the consistent application of these techniques, you can play a critical role in helping fulfill an aphasia patient’s essential human needs.
With over 50 years of industry experience, AliMed can help you improve the quality of care for aphasia patients. To learn more, visit AliMed today.