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5 Strategies to Help Educate Patients & Families About Aphasia – by Hetal Patel, SLP

Aphasia is a complex disorder that can manifest itself differently with each patient. It can vary in cause, severity, and the best course of treatment—so as a therapist, it is imperative to work collaboratively with your patient and their family toward recovery. To effectively collaborate, patients and their families should understand the aphasia's intricacies and its treatment.

Approaching those conversations isn’t always easy, so we enlisted the help of Hetal Patel, M.S., CCC-SLP, and an Advanced travel SLP to compile some best practices in educating your patients and their families to optimize treatment results:

1.) Always define the diagnosis
What is aphasia? What type of aphasia does the patient have? It is important to use laymen’s terms to help aid incomprehension. Most families aren’t aware of how complex the language system is, so breaking it down is beneficial for their understanding and the patient. Families can help patients better compensate for their deficits if they understand where the deficits lie and why.

2.) Provide examples
A great way to promote learned strategies to generalized contexts is to provide the patient and family members examples of how a particular strategy can be adapted to various parts of their lives. In saying that, it is definitely important to make therapy functional for the patient. Functional communication is the foundation of human nature. Can the patient get their wants and needs to be met using these strategies? That’s a great place to start when considering treatment approaches because if the patient cannot do so, they may be less likely to try and carry out the therapist's strategies as it may seem arbitrary.

3.) Educate the patient and family that communication comes in MANY different forms
It’s important to let them know that depending on severity, the patient may not communicate verbally as easily as they once could. This is where the SLP needs to help the family understand the difference between communication vs. verbalization. Providing support to families and having an open discussion about various forms of communication (i.e., gestures, picture boards, AAC devices, etc.) will lend to a better overall outcome for the patient’s use of language not only to communicate wants and needs but in social situations as well.

4.) Involve family in therapy sessions as much as possible
After all, they are the ones who spend the most amount of time with the patient daily. That is not to say the family members should try to BE the therapist to the patient at home, but rather adapt and use techniques learned from the therapist within sessions to better aid functional communication within the home and community settings. Working together doesn’t have to end with the rehab team at the clinic—including the families and the patient when making decisions. Gains made in therapy are more likely to be maintained if the patient and families are on board with the care plan from the start! 

5.) Never talk down to a patient because of their deficit
An aphasia diagnosis does not imply reduced intelligence. Educate the family on how to maintain social interactions and conversations so that the patient can still understand despite their diagnosis. Find a middle ground to help keep communication pleasant for them and encourage social communication.

There are many resources out there for support once the formal therapeutic intervention is complete. Always feel free to reach back out to your therapist if questions or situations arise. It’s SO important to build rapport with not only your patient but with their family as well, from the beginning. Resources, such as, help provide strategies for the patients and families and the therapist!

About Hetal Patel: Hetal has always been passionate about helping others and wanted to utilize her love for science and language somehow in her career. Hetal achieved her Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology at James Madison University. After completing her Clinical Fellowship with the Delaware Autism Program and working in a specialized school for almost 2 years, she decided it was time to leap into the world of travel therapy! Hetal has worked at many skilled nursing facilities all over the East Coast – Pennsylvania, Delaware, South Carolina, and is currently in Florida in an acute and outpatient setting!

Posted by Kate Hawes

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