My friend Ginger had a stroke a few months ago, which resulted in Wernicke’s Aphasia. This means that although Ginger knows what she wants to say, sometimes the words that she uses are not always distinguishable to those of us listening.
Fortunately, Ginger’s daughter Kristin (who has been at Ginger’s side since the stroke) provided a very helpful “Visiting Ginger Tip Sheet.” This has been an excellent resource for communicating with a friend who has Wernicke’s Aphasia. This tip sheet is reprinted with Ginger’s permission.
General Information about People with Wernicke’s Aphasia
- Read an article about Wernicke’s Aphasia; it will help you understand Ginger’s type of stroke
- Realize that people with Wernicke’s Aphasia mix up words. For example, “he” typically means “she”, “daughter” might mean “husband”, etc.
- When Ginger is talking about something without any clear words coming out, she does know what she wants to say, but we often can’t decipher her “language.”
- Keep directions and communications short and direct. It’s OK to ask, “Do you understand?”
- Ask yes and no questions to help understand what she is saying.
- Repeat correct words back to her; ask her to say it again
- Repeat words and phrases that you are uncertain about, asking if you understood correctly
- It is appropriate to say that you don’t understand
- Demonstrate what you want
- Ask yes/no questions in context – like during a meal or activity. For example, would you like ________? If there are multiple choices, say “You could do X, Y or Z. Would you like to do X?”
- Give one-step directions and help her follow them. Works best in context of an activity or task.
- Ask Ginger to show you what she means – point, take you to the room, etc.
- When you are answering a question for Ginger, realize that she may ask the same question a few times, or may ask the same series of questions a few times.
Providing Emotional Support
- It is appropriate to commiserate when she says that not being able to talk is awful
- Talk slowly but not condescendingly
- Talk clearly and directly, but not too loudly since she does hear well
- Let her know when she’s done something right. Be positive. Celebrate the wins. Don’t focus on the problems.
- It is best if one person at a time talks to Ginger. Try to avoid noisy environments
- Talk to Jim or Kristin if she is confused or upset or needs help
Thank you, Kristin, for providing such a valuable resource that will help us be good friends to those who have had a stroke.