How can families be involved in treatment for persons with aphasia?
When involving families in treatment, it is important to model supportive techniques for communication. Those techniques should have been introduced to the family when the patient was in acute care but that does not mean that the family learned or remembered them. Remember the family is learning under stress and may not be absorbing the information we are giving them. Therefore, we need to continuously be good role models for family members.
Train the family in specific methods. Too often, this does not happen until the patient reaches the outpatient phase. Training the family members and partners in supportive techniques needs to happen much sooner.
It is important to revisit education about aphasia with the family. There are many videos and websites that feature persons with aphasia and their stories. Provide written information to the family and establish a written communication system with them to facilitate dialogue.
See the family as the experts. We are not the experts on this person. We are not even the experts on the aphasia; we work with aphasia. Audrey Holland discusses the difference between working with aphasia and living with aphasia. Obviously, the person with aphasia is living in the disorder and we do not know what that is like unless we have experienced it ourselves. The family is the expert on how the person with aphasia copes and behaves as well as what motivates them. Incorporating the knowledge family members have about their loved one into treatment can definitely help the person with aphasia achieve better treatment outcomes.
Jennifer Kerr is a clinical assistant professor at Missouri State University (MSU). She has over 15 years of clinical experience working with adult populations as a medical speech-language pathologist (SLP) and 7 years of teaching and supervisory experience at the university level. Her primary clinical interest areas are aphasia, motor speech disorders, cognitive-linguistic communication, and working with caregivers.