My husband had a stroke 2 months ago; he only has a few words...

Motherwolf asked...

My husband had a stroke two months ago. He can only say a few words so far. What can I do to be more patient with him? I can understand some things he is trying to say but there are other times when I cannot and he and I both get upset. I feel so badly that I get upset with him. He is trying so hard to make me understand.


Expert Answer

Cleo Hutton, a survivor of two strokes, is coauthor of Striking Back at Stroke: A Doctor-Patient Journal , and author of After a Stroke: 300 Tips for Making Life Easier , a daily step-by-step guide for furthering stroke recovery at home.

It appears that you are describing a condition called post-stroke aphasia. In general, this means that a person has language problems caused by damage to the brain. Aphasia may cause trouble speaking, understanding, writing, or reading. There are different types of aphasia as well but let’s stick to the basics for this answer.

Remember, your husbands’ brain is intact and he is thinking clearly. The frustration is that he cannot get words from brain to mouth correctly. This condition, that affected the speech center in his brain, can be significantly improved with continued speech therapy. In the meantime, ask short questions that can be answered with a “yes” or “no” nod of the head or response. Talk to him in a normal tone of voice as he is capable of understanding and hearing everything you say although he may not be able to remember long conversations right now. If he is able to read, make sure he has pencil and paper or a letter board or a list of a few simple comments so he can choose which answer he would like.

Now, let’s address how to care for the caregiver -- you. You are vitally important in your husband's recovery process. It is important to stay calm and listen attentively for his slow responses. Your facial expressions and body language will speak volumes now. You must slow down too in order to be at your best to care for your husband. Take a breath, regroup, hold his hand and provide encouragement like “you’re doing better today than you did last week.”

Here are some “do’s and don’ts” that may help you. Don’t ask questions like, “What would you like for supper?” Instead, ask “Would you like roast beef or chicken?” and actually show him his choices. By asking questions in this manner you will be providing for his dignity in the face of great obstacles. Try not to make decisions for him that he is capable of making by himself. Allow him to dress himself as much as possible and to choose what he wishes to wear. Give him two choices, like “the black pants or the tan pants.”
Patience is a virtue that wears very thin for both caregiver and stroke survivor after stroke. In time, and by using various skills, you will learn to communicate again.

Thank you for your question and keep us posted of your family's progress.