Communicating can be a challenge for all of us, but it’s especially difficult when the person we’re talking with has speech difficulties or cognitive issues. Asking someone to repeat themselves over and over can be frustrating for both people…but nodding and pretending to understand isn’t a good long-term solution.

Here are tips from other caregivers on how they make communication easier:

Take your time and use hand signals if possible. I actually made a book complete with photos for a client so his other caregivers would understand his nonverbal communications. – Allison C.

Be patient. Give the individual time to process the information (small bits of info or requests are best) and then give them more time to respond. We live in such a fast paced world, we need to slow down our communication. – Adrianne L.

My husband suffered a second serious TBI he often uses the wrong words. If he gets stuck on finding a specific word for a sentence. It helps him, if I ask him, “What you do with it?” or ‘How do you use it?” For some reason this often helps the word come “unstuck.” – Chairein C.

Ask yes and no questions. – Kathy E.

White board, photos, simple sign language. Touch mouth for hungry, tip hand toward mouth for thirsty, frown and point to body part to indicate pain. – Bobbi C.

I’ve used photo books, as well. They can be made inexpensively and they can work beautifully with many non-verbal clients. Also, dry erase boards in a pinch! – Susan K.

Take it slow and look right at the person when speaking to them because if they have a hearing problem chances are they have gotten pretty good at reading lips. – Sheila S.

Have patience, speak slowly and use pictures if necessary. My 5 yr old autistic son has speech difficulties but does understand pictures. – Danielle W.

Have a laugh! Some of the best moments weve had in the midst of this challenge are when I have ‘misheard’ things or when my husband accidentally says the wrong word. Takes the pressure off and allows us to relax and have some fun moments in the middle of huge challenge and hard days. – Sharon K.

Hand signals, facial expressions, word cards, letter cards for the person to use. Take your time and listen very carefully. – Annette C.

Be patient and don’t attempt to finish their sentences for them. – Stephanie B.

Patience and more patience. My daughter is deaf & legally blind with cerebral palsy and more. Communication for us is often a guessing game between real photo cards or her iPad to communicate. Hers is all non verbal including some signs and gestures. With others with speech issues I have had to make sure other distracting audio is to a bare minimum so the patient/student can be heard and can heard me. Try to make them feel comfortable and not rushed. – Dana H.

Word salads can be a challenge but as long as you are patient you will figure out what they are trying to say. – Kimberly P.

My mother had Als. She wrote everything down on paper. with her als she had FTD frontal lobe dementia which causes confusion in speech as far as not being able to get the letters in the right in a sentence. Orange flyswatter was orner flyswaff. They have communication devices that can help if the person has the ability. At the end it was thumbs up and thumbs down. Pictures work well too if the person has the ability. – Karen W.

So many difference scenarios here. ALS, dementia etc.. With my mom I listen until the last word and if it’s crazy I repeat it and she falls off her chair laughing, me with her. Then after we laugh I ask her again. Often we can complete the thought together. – Sue L.

My wife has MS and struggles sometimes finding her words. She said one of the things that bothers her most is when people finish her sentence. The speech therapists say to let them finish on their own. It helps them find their words. – Lori F.

iSpeech text to speech app for iPhone. When my daughters can’t speak they can type it out sometimes and the app speaks for them. – Kelly C.

My sister uses a white board (write-on, wipe-off) she has ALS and has lost her ability to speak. – Karen H.

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