November 23, 2015

Remembering the Thanklist

Thanksgiving is a time for indulgent feasts, family gatherings, fun and games, and a few days off from work. But this holiday also offers a chance to slow down a bit and reflect on what we can be thankful for. With Aphasia at home, many moments during the year have been filled with frustration, confusion, hard work, and a long chain of ups and downs. As Chad Ruble writes in an essay about his experience with his mom’s Aphasia:

Life as a caregiver can be frustrating and satisfying – often at the same time. It’s always changing, sometimes for the worse, but often for the better.

Another of our community members, Dave, shared his experience with his wife’s Primary Progressive Aphasia:

We have endured through the many lows, and occasional highs, over the past two years.

But, for all the hardships and the severity of the event, I am truly appreciative of the fact that she is still with us.

I have hope for our future together and we look forward to a time when we can both “retire” to do more of the things we love doing together. Until then, our large family is nearby to add comfort and support to us both. Again, we are blessed!

So, this Thanksgiving, if you care for someone with Aphasia, take a moment to appreciate the fact that even if your parent, or spouse, or friend has lost some of their ability to communicate – it’s still them, they are still around, they are still with you. And if you are a person with Aphasia, remember to thank your loved ones for being there with you on this challenging journey.

Tips to make the Thanksgiving dinner fun for all


Maybe it will be a small family dinner, or you have invited friends to join, or the neighbors might drop by for a slice of pumpkin pie (can one really have too much of it?). Whatever the case, it may be helpful to remind your guests the following tips on how to communicate with persons with Aphasia:

Make sure you have the person’s attention before you start speaking to them.

Minimize or eliminate background noise (TV, radio, other people).

Keep your own voice at a normal level, unless the person has indicated otherwise.

Keep communication simple, but adult. Simplify your own sentence structure and reduce your rate of speech. Emphasize key words. Don’t “talk down” to the person with aphasia.

Give them time to speak. Resist the urge to finish sentences or offer words.

Communicate with drawings, gestures, writing and facial expressions in addition to speech.

Confirm that you are communicating successfully with “yes” and “no” questions

Praise all attempts to speak and downplay any errors. Avoid insisting that that each word be produced perfectly.

These tips can be printed out in a friendly poster found here and provided for the guests. This is what it would look like (there is both a male and a female version):


It may also be a good idea to give your family member or friend an Aphasia ID card, it will make it easier for them to explain to guests why they are not partaking in the friendly chatter. You can print out such cards here: Aphasia ID. This is how it looks when printed out:

Aphasia ID screenshot

Have a Happy Thanksgiving!

The NAA Team