Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Communicating With Aphasic Patients after Stroke

By: Shelia Carlisle, Speech Pathologist, HealthSouth Lakeshore Rehabilitation Hospital

 A common diagnosis patients present at HealthSouth Lakeshore Rehabilitation Hospital is stroke. One of the many deficits a stroke patient may incur is aphasia, a speech and language disorder that causes difficulty using or comprehending words during listening, speaking, reading and writing. Although symptoms may vary from patient to patient, the difficulties and frustrations people with aphasia and their families encounter are consistent.

Aphasia changes the way healthcare providers communicate with these patients. When communicating with an aphasic patient, consider the following tips:

1) Make sure you have the patient’s full attention before communicating.

2) Eliminate background noise or distractions such as televisions, radios, phones or staff/visitors.

3) Speak to the patient as an adult, using appropriate tone, volume and pitch. Do not talk down to the patient.

4) Keep your instructions simple. Speak at a slow rate and emphasize key words.

5) Do not pretend to understand the patient if you do not.

6) Encourage and use all modes of communication including speech, writing, gestures, drawing, facial expressions, eye contact, pointing, choices and yes/no responses.

7) When asking the patient a question, ask questions that can be answered with a “yes” or “no”. Visual cues are very helpful (i.e., head nods and/or written choices).

8) Give the patient adequate time to respond to questions. Sometimes this can be longer than you expect.

9) Resist the urge to finish the patient’s sentences or offer words.


Involve family members in the patient’s care as much as possible especially during communication attempts. Encourage independence and allow the patient to do so much as he or she can for themselves. It may help a person with aphasia, as well as their caregivers and families, to have a book or page with pictures and/or words about everyday topics so the patient can communicate more easily. The inpatient and outpatient speech therapy departments at HealthSouth Lakeshore have many of these tools available for patients and staff use and can assist in educating family members about aphasia and the most effective way in which to communicate with the patient (i.e., gestures, writing, verbal, etc.).

HealthSouth Lakeshore is certified for Disease-Specific Care in stroke rehabilitation. The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval™ was awarded to the hospital for its compliance with the organization’s national standards for healthcare quality and safety for stroke rehabilitation.

Studies indicate 60 percent of stroke survivors can benefit from comprehensive rehabilitation. Eighty percent of patients receiving this level of therapy return to their homes, work, schools or active retirement, according to the National Rehabilitation Caucus. The Joint Commission’s acknowledgement of HealthSouth Lakeshore’s continuum of care for stroke offers patients and families peace of mind in knowing they are getting quality stroke care for maximized results.

About HealthSouth Lakeshore Rehabilitation Hospital

HealthSouth Lakeshore Rehabilitation Hospital is a 100-bed inpatient rehabilitation hospital that offers comprehensive inpatient and outpatient rehabilitation services. Serving patients throughout north central and central Alabama, the hospital is located at 3800 Ridgeway Drive in Homewood and on the Web at www.healthsouthlakeshorerehab.com .

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