Your elderly father suffered a stroke and is back home recuperating. But now dad is having trouble speaking and understanding what you’re saying. His inability to communicate has reached a point you’re worried about his health and wellbeing. What should you do? Many older Americans have a medical condition known as aphasia, which interferes with their ability to speak, read, write and understand language. Getting your message across when an elderly parent has difficulty communicating is possible when taking these steps.

What is Aphasia?

Aphasia occurs when specific regions of the brain that produce and process language get damaged. According to the National Aphasia Association, over one million Americans have aphasia; a majority of which are over the age of 55.

Sudden-onset aphasia can be caused by:

  • Stroke
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Brain surgery

Gradual-onset aphasia typically results from:

The severity of aphasia symptoms varies from patient to patient depending upon which area of the brain is affected, the damage’s extent, the person’s age and their overall health.

Signs and Symptoms of Aphasia

Signs and symptoms of aphasia include:

  • Trouble naming familiar objects, people, places and events
  • Difficulty expressing oneself when speaking or writing
  • Trouble reading or spelling
  • Trouble understanding conversations
  • Leaving out small words from sentences
  • Speaking in short phrases that take much effort to get out
  • Mixing up sounds in words
  • Making up words
  • Trouble with numbers or doing simple math
  • Saying the wrong word in-a-given situation, or substituting a word that doesn’t make sense

If your aging in place parent is experiencing one or more of these signs, finding effective ways to communicate with them is vital for ensuring their continued freedom and independence.

Assisting a Parent with Aphasia

Sometimes aphasia is temporary and can be corrected with speech therapy and other types of rehab. Other forms of aphasia are permanent, which means family members must also learn how to permanently adjust to their loved one’s condition. Whether your parent’s aphasia is short or long-term, here are some ways to more effectively communicate with them:

Talking Devices

These electronic tools enable a user to make requests by choosing images from a screen which the device then verbalizes. There are even more sophisticated versions that allow users to type in personalized messages on a keyboard that the device then verbally delivers at the touch of a button.

Image Sets

An image, or symbol, set allows a senior to simply point at pictures that describe what they are trying to express, for example that they’re hungry. For seniors who are more tech-savvy, there are image set apps