How-To-Guide for Companionship for an Aphasia Sufferer

Aphasia is a difficulty to process language following damage to the ‘language center’ part of the brain. How can you provide companionship for an aphasia sufferer? Here are tips and ideas for effective communication and ways to get around the difficulty. Learn also how to be sensitive to the abilities of your partner in conversation.

Companionship is one of the Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), the core activities a person needs daily in order to be an independent functioning person. Companionship, which is important for every person, becomes critical for a person with a communication difficulty.

Aphasia can affect a person’s ability to use speech, and comprehend other people’s speech. It can affect a person’s ability to read and write and sometimes uses numbers and gestures. Companionship, support and encouragement from family, friends or carers can perhaps, prevent the addition of depression or anxiety.

Tips for Effective Companionship for an Aphasia Sufferer

  • Use sentences that are short and simple.
  • Change the topic of conversation slowly, using conversation markers, “We finished discussing X. Let’s discuss Y”.
  • Open-ended questions demand more thought than questions requiring short or single-word answers. Ask questions that are easier to answer, such as Yes/No questions.
  • Do not finish the person’s sentences for them when you can see they want to speak.
  • Don’t correct errors they make. Examples are, if the word comes out wrong in the way it sounds or doesn’t make sense.
  • Reduce background sounds or noise that distracts
  • You don’t need to raise your voice, talk normally, but more slowly

Support and Encouragement

  • Suggest thoughts that could keep a person in a positive frame of mind.
  • Stating your intention to be there for the person, is very encouraging.
  • Make a fixed, regular time for meeting or communicating with the person.
  • Value the communication that the person can contribute to the conversation.
  • Normal daily activities should continue as appropriate

Non-verbal Communication

  • Use props, such as items from around you, Playmobil® figures, pictures in books
  • You or your companion can sketch pictures on paper, or write actual words
  • If the person can write or draw, keep a pen and notebook next to them, ready if they need it
  • Other non-speech related activities should be made available
  • Maintain eye contact during conversations

Being Sensitive

  • Before you begin to speak make sure that you have their attention
  • After you speak, wait, to give the other person plenty of time to respond.
  • Speak slowly and calmly to your companion
  • Talk to the person as an intelligent adult – as you would do before they had aphasia
  • Understand that their tone may not accurately reflect their mood

Aphasia affects each sufferer differently. Some of these points may be suitable or unsuitable for you or your companion. Try different ideas and adapt them where you can. Companionship for an aphasia sufferer is important and even a little means a lot. Think about the sufferer’s needs before yours and you may find that any practical difficulties you face, melt away.


Companionship for an aphasia sufferer over 2 servings of dessert


Original Photo by Heather Barnes on Unsplash