- If I suddenly need to go into hospital can I use my communication aid?
You can use a communication aid in hospital. Be aware that the nurses and doctors working in hospital will not be as familiar with the aid as you are. Try to keep it out where it can be seen and you can access it if you need to. If someone who knows about your communication aid accompanies you to hospital or visits you there, ask them to tell the nurses about your aid and how it helps you to communicate. You may find some challenges with the positioning and accessing of your aid, and this could be where family or PAs can help. A low-tech page with key words or picture symbols often works particularly well in a strange situation like this.
- How can I support someone who has lost their communication?
If you need to communicate with someone who you think may have lost some of their communication skills, there are specific things you can do to help that person understand you. First, make sure you have the attention of the person with whom you would like to communication. Make sure the person can see your face clearly. Check how they can signal ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to you, e.g. eye blinks, head nods, vocalisations, gestures. This will make any following conversation much easier for both of you. Then, use simple words and sentences to communicate your message. Use gestures to support your message, and then give the person time to understand what you have said. If you think the person may be able to read, try writing down the message as well. If you have a picture, graphic or object related to your message handy, show it to the person. Try to confirm what you think the person has communicated by repeating their message.
For example, if a nurse is pouring some water with her back turned to a patient and says ‘would you like a drink’, the patient is unlikely to be able to see or hear the nurse very well. A better approach would be if the nurse stood near the patient, got the patient’s attention and then said, clearly, ‘water?’, while miming drinking from a cup of water.
You should find out if the person can understand or produce written words or pictures of items. This can help in the short-term, but you should always try to see a speech and language therapist, who will be able to provide you with individual guidance.
- Who can help me, if I lose my communication or my speech?
A speech and language therapist is the best person to advise on communication and speech if those skills have been impaired. You can request a referral through your GP, or if in hospital through any of the hospital staff.
- What would they do to help?
A speech and language therapist may start by getting to know a little bit about you and your family or circumstances. They will work with you to assess the skills that you have and create a plan of interventions or therapy. From this, they would develop goals for your communication recovery.
Things you might want to look into on this site:
- Nurses’ perceptions of communication training in the ICU
- Use of augmentative and alternative communication strategies by family members in the intensive care unit
- Factsheet: Role of the speech & language therapist
Although this information is believed to be accurate, you are strongly advised to make your own independent enquiries.
Last updated July 2013