An insight into aphasia
SayAphasia is a charity based in East Sussex, founded five years ago by Colin Lyall, who lives with aphasia himself. SayAphasia has two main aims: to support people with aphasia and their families to live well and to raise the public’s awareness of aphasia. Here they give their insights into aphasia.
Imagine not being able to speak, read or write like you can now. Suddenly you can’t order a coffee, easily share your day with your partner or chat to your kids. Facebook doesn’t make sense and you cannot write a birthday card, email or text. That’s what it can be like living with aphasia. 24/7 you’ve lost your language, your ability to connect, to be heard and to listen. 350,000 people are living with aphasia in the UK along with those who are caring for someone with aphasia. Aphasia is caused by an injury to the brain with one in three people experiencing it after a stroke.
Aphasia not only impacts the person who has it, but also those around them. Aphasia is different for every person, but the good news is your language skills continue to improve for years after a stroke.
When living with and looking after someone who has aphasia, conversation can be one of the trickiest things to maintain. You can’t just chat like you used to. Sometimes conversation will be impossible. That is OK, just sit together, watch TV, hold hands, try to maintain a sense of humour. Life can be hectic, especially at Christmas, but if you are having an important conversation, make sure:
- It is at a time of day when neither of you are tired. Choose a quiet space, sit together with a cuppa, turn off the TV or radio and put your phones on silent.
- You chat as equals. Resist the urge to sneak in “therapy”. Focus on getting the message across any way you can and maintain a sense of humour.
- The person with aphasia does not need to speak in full sentences. None of us do in conversation, honest!
- If speaking is tricky, use a pen and paper. Help the person with aphasia by writing or drawing the most important words or ideas in your conversation such as “town” or “shopping”. The person can then point to your words, drawings to help express their opinion.
- When discussing different options, such as a plan for the week or a present list, write and draw options. Writing or drawing options reduces some of the mental load, you don’t not have to remember, you can see what you are talking about. This leaves more head space for your partner to form an opinion.
- You use visual props such a calendars, photos on your phone and objects can help a person with aphasia’s understanding support rather than hinder their speech.
- If you have understood, there is no need to correct any mistakes. Just reply as you would to anyone else and keep that conversation flowing. If you haven’t understood, repeat back what you think they mean. Your partner can then correct you or let you know that you have understood and the conversation can carry on.
Further information about SayAphasia is at: www.sayaphasia.org.uk. Or call Firle Beckley on 07866 671 604 or Colin Lyall on 07796 143118.