(800) 973-1540

How do you deal with aphasia?

7 answers | Last updated: Apr 10, 2015
A fellow caregiver asked...

My dad had a massive left-brain stroke 3 years ago. After the initial confusion, and with some speech therapy, he settled into a yes/no form of communication that mostly works for all of us at this point. Occasionally, he'll still try to say more, but after 4 halting words, he can't get any further, so for the most part he doesn't try anymore. Its kind of sad to not be able to communicate the more abstract things that he'd like to connect on. He was left with the use of his left hand, but being right-handed before, it's hard for him to write, peck out keys on the keyboard, etc. and, anyway, the speech center of his brain screws it up when he tries. For any others with experience of aphasia, what strategies have you employed to communicating?


Caring.com User - James Castle, M.D.
Caring.com Expert
Send a Hug or Prayer
James Castle, M.D. is a neurologist at NorthShore University HealthSystem (affiliated with The University of Chicago) and an expert on strokes.
67% helpful
James Castle, M.D. answered...

Unfortunately, if your father's stroke was 3 years ago, there's little chance of any major improvement in his symptoms. Therefore, you'll have to make the most of his current skill See also:
After a Stroke: When Words Fail Us

See all 578 questions about Stroke
level. In broad terms, it may be best to think of aphasia as encompassing two separate elements: the ability to understand, and the ability to speak or write. It sounds like your father is having more difficulty speaking and writing. In some ways, this is fortunate, because the inability to understand is more troublesome.

Given what you've said above, I think the next step would be to have him evaluated by a good speech therapist. A speech therapist specializing in stroke (available at many rehabilitation centers) should help tailor a communication method for your father that allows him to maximize his skills. This includes using tools such as a message board, which would allow him to communicate substantially more information than trying to write or type out his thoughts. For example, it's much easier to point to an icon that indicates, "I would like to go to the movies" than it is to type this information out. If you can't afford a therapist, you can create a board at home with pictures that he can point to, allowing him to convey many common phrases.


More Answers
Send a Hug or Prayer
50% helpful
A fellow caregiver answered...

My mom had a stroke in April of this year. She is 82. She lost the use of her right side and her speech. She is now walking without help but cannot use her right arm/hand very well. She still cannot speak except to say an occasional word. I don't know where you are in CA but my mom goes to the Aphasia Center in Oakland. She likes it andthere are lots of people who encourage her with their own testimonials of recovery. http://www.aphasiacenter.org/ If you can't get there the website might have some good information. My mom is also using a Lingraphica - a device for people with aphasia. It does not seem to be exactly what she needs but it might be a help to your dad. I was just seaching for a talking dictionary, or some sort of thing, when I came across your blog. My mom likes using a dictionary to find the words she wants but it takes a bit of time. Good luck to you and your dad.


100% helpful
Spouse of Aphasic answered...

My husband had a left CVA six years ago. He has expressive aphasia and although he has had many speech therapist he still cannot speak. He does answer yes and no but many times he says yes when he means no and no when he means yes. Writing is just as bad although he can at times get enough letters correct that you can determine what he is saying. I made him a communication book and this is a huge help. The book has his information - name,address,birthday,meds,medical history,family members names and contact info. etc - he has the information needed to complete any form presented to him and because he can read he can copy the info and present to anyone needing it. A section on places lets him easily tell me where he wants to go. A grocery section allows him to make a grocery list. The subject information can be endless. I type it on excel and cut the pages to fit in his small tabbed notebook. A cover flap holds a calendar that is updated with appointments etc. A business card holder section holds cards from anyplace we can acquire one. A photo section allows him to share with others. I try to add any info that he would need in the event I was not available to assist him. He also has a Dyanvox communication device and although he can obtain information from it, he really does not use it and it was very expensive. He enjoys magazines so we subscribe to many and he shares articles for laughter or discussion with others as well as articles from the newspaper. Yes, he reads but he maintains that articles that are deep are to much for him to understand so at times he has me read them to him.
He enjoys text to speech on the Kindle (although not all books are available in text to speech) he is signed up for Bookshare but have not gotten a book yet. I think that much of the time and money we have spent on speech therapy would have been better spent on communication therapy. Our experience as been that speech therapist are not always good at communication therapy. Most cannot use the devices that they think will help. Most do not help the caregiver with how to assist the person with communication. My feeling is that a person with aphasia, that is not acquiring speech ,needs to be assisted in activities of daily living just as other brain injured persons - yet we have not found this source of therapy.
One thing I failed to mention is that by using the communication book and having him write the information, he has gained some writing skills (meaning he can spell some frequently used words or at least get most of the letters correct. Aphasia is so hard for everyone, the stroke patient and those who care for them but finding ways to communicate is the answer and I do not feel that enough help exist in this area. Wouldn't it be nice if you could go online and order a custom communication book and order updates or even have a site that would have forms for making your own book - WOW, how many hours this would save me. It would be nice to have someone come to your home and set up a device that would allow the Aphasic to communicate on the phone - well the list goes on. I do know that saying the ABC'S and counting and naming articles will not teach a Aphasic to talk. It may make them think and this is good but they will not start talking after several years of not speaking.


albulock answered...

My mother suffered stroke in 2007, while undergoing a heart double by-pass surgery at the VA hospital. She was paralyzed on the right side, and unable to communicate through speech. Three years later, my mother has regained full use of her right side. Unfortunately, she continues to suffer from severe aphasia and apraxia - and the simplest things in life become the most challenging. I have found speech therapy computer software made by Bungalow that has helped my mother tremendously with her speech. They have several different exercises to meet all kinds of speech deficit needs. Its important to begin physical and speech therapy treatment as soon as possible; and forever be made a part of their daily living activities. Don't give up!! Progress is slow and steady; and clearly obvious with consistent and aggressive therapy over time. Good luck!


LeisaAnn answered...

My mom had a stroke in August 2010 which paralyzed her right side and left her unable to speak understandably. She can understand what is said. Our home health speech therapist suggested an ipad. We got one and purchased Prologuo2go app, which s fairly expensive. There are other apps. Basically, they have icons which she can touch and it speaks. Unfortunately, my Mom was never computer savy (or interested in being) and she is easily frustrated. It can be customized to fit your needs. I think it offers potential for stroke patients with expressive aphasia, it just as not been as helpful in our situation.


100% helpful
TAP Unlimited answered...

I just came upon your question and the answers provided,...and I must chime in and tell you that you should NEVER give up hope! We know so much more about neuroplasticity (the brain's ability to be rewired) and rehabilitation methods and approaches to stroke/aphasia. There are many approaches now that influence recovery and support return to social activities and engagement in the community. As one of the caregivers suggested...find an aphasia program in your area. Many hold daily or weekly groups for individuals anytime after they have been diagnosed with aphasia and improvement does indeed continue. The National Aphasia Association (www.aphasia.org) has a list of LPAA programs across the USA. I am also willing to help find you one... contact me through our website www.aphasiaproject.org. Keep believing!


R&H answered...

I strongly agree with the last response. Nine years ago we were told that my husband would never walk, talk or think clearly again. I have spent those years researching therapies and creating supports for him and others like him. He is now able to walk, take a bus and look after most of his own needs. I have also found effective ways to help him improve his ability to communicate. He made such dramatic improvements that he was even featured on RTE's Prime Time program. There is always hope and there is evidence that progress is possible. I created a free resource that explains 24 therapies that you might find useful http://www.researchandhope.com/. Please don't give up, I have read many hundreds of high quality studies that document great improvements, even decades after a stroke or brain injury. I wish you and your family the very best.