How does one communicate with a friend who has had a stroke and has limited conversational ability? That’s been on my mind ever since my good friend Ginger had a stroke three months ago. Ginger has Wernicke’s Aphasia which means she has damage in the areas of her brain that processes the meaning of words and spoken language.
On my weekly visits, Ginger greets me at the door enthusiastically with, “Hi. Love you,” but some of her words are indistinguishable. I strain to hear a familiar word, can’t always understand what Ginger is trying to tell me.
So I have been searching for ways to spend time with my friend without relying primarily on words and dialogue. A great fun discovery has been puzzles. Springbok has puzzles designed for those with memory difficulties and dementia but stroke patients have also found these puzzles helpful and fun. The “Puzzles to Remember” series exercises multiple parts of the brain. They are cheerful and have colorful themes and the large pieces help stroke patients (and me) find success as the completed picture appears. Ginger and I have so much fun trying pieces and cheering when we fit each piece into the picture.
Now that I have discovered this creative way to care well, my time with Ginger is as fun as it’s always been. We laugh. We hug. We say, “I love you.” And we look forward to the day when we can add meaningful conversations back into our times together.
A special note and “thank you”: Ginger’s daughter Kristin has been so helpful to all of Ginger’s caregiving friends by sending us a list of suggestions called “Visiting Ginger.” You can read her suggestions here. This is a very helpful list for anyone who is a friend to, or providing care for, someone with Wernicke’s Aphasia.