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Providing Psycho-Social Support to Persons with Aphasia

Dr. Mona Greenfield and Ellayne Ganzfried - July 24, 2017 10:38 AM

A medical diagnosis of aphasia, resulting from a stroke or brain trauma, is only a piece of the presenting problem for the person with aphasia (PWA) .  An array of psycho-social issues affect the PWA with a changed life and sense of self.   Difficulty processing language, communicating needs and wants, and enjoying social communication can lead to frustration.  

The PWA may need help from a caregiver or an aide to do many routine activities such as making an appointment, completing a phone call, shopping, answering questions, completing a form or just communicating with family and friends.   The feeling of not being able to socialize because of difficulty "getting out words" often leads to anxiety and depression.  Feelings of isolation and adjusting to the "new normal" can be overwhelming for the PWA and their caregivers.  

Emotional lability i.e., easily crying or laughing, and/ or reactions which often seem extreme can be common.  This is a result of changes in the brain and trying to process the flooding emotions associated with aphasia.  Emotional support is essential for both the PWA and caregiver; it can significantly impact upon the rehabilitation process.   Realistic encouragement offers the PWA, their family and support system a way to cope with the changes and process of recovery.

There are many options for psycho-social support for the PWA.  Supportive counseling, psychotherapy with a therapist trained to communicate with PWA, and support and cognitive groups offer a safe space to communicate and work on communication skills and emotional issues; the new normal.  

At Metropolitan Communication Associates, we have many groups to help the PWA communicate in a supportive setting and feel understood and respected.   A relaxation group followed by a support group takes place weekly and is led by a social worker, speech-language pathologist and interns trained to help the PWA cope with the emotional and social life changes. There are cognitive groups offered as well.

It is important for the PWA to continue to communicate with others and share feelings, progress, emotions, and frustrations about the rehabilitation process and life changes.   Therapists who are trained and experienced to understand aphasia can best help PWA with getting their words and feelings expressed.  

The Words Escape Me: Voices of Aphasia has many poignant stories by PWA and caregivers which can help with navigating through the journey of rehabilitation from stroke and brain injury and with life changes.  The book is available through Balboa Press  or Amazon

Dr. Mona Greenfield is a speech-language pathologist and clinical social worker. She has taught in many graduate programs in speech-language pathology, including NYU. For the past 13 years, she has blended her training in speech-language pathology and social work by founding and directing the Metropolitan Communication Associates and in her private practice. ??

Ellayne Ganzfried is a speech-language pathologist and the former Executive Director of the National Aphasia Association. She is a Fellow of the American Speech Language Hearing Association (ASHA). Ellayne has created and managed several speech, hearing and rehabilitation programs in New York and Massachusetts.

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