Communication Support for Patients
There are many people who are unable to communicate health related information- especially in a hospital situation. It is probably one of the most critical places to be able to express wants and needs and ask questions of doctors, nurses and family members, but many individuals are unable to do so. Some people may have had a stroke and be left with a communication impairment called aphasia or speech related challenges such as dysarthria ( due to a muscular weakness) or apraxia ( due to a motor programming deficit.) Others may be unable to speak because they are intubated (have a tube going down their airway), have a hearing related deficit, vocal injury or degenerative disease. There are many people who do not speak the language that is spoken in the health care facility they are in. Many individuals in medical settings have cognitive deficits due to a head injury, dementia or effects from medications.
The resources listed below may be very helpful to individuals with communication challenges who are in a health care environment or who are at home and need to express as well as understand health related matters. The use of images with medical personnel and family can help people understand and remember what is said to them. I have been to many emergency rooms and hospitals and am usually surprised that more isn’t done to help patients communicate. Everyone is busy focusing on medical needs that the communication needs of individuals are often overlooked. Translators are usually available for important situations, but are most appropriate for people who have intact communication skills- they just speak a different language. Translators are not always the most appropriate tool to help people with communication disabilities. Very often patients are typically not given tools to help them make themselves understood or help them understand what others say to them.
I would usually speak of using interactive touch tablets such as the iPad and translation apps or augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) apps and devices which are great tools and I do think they belong in medical settings, but in this case I am highlighting low tech resources. I recently learned of some phenomenal free resources that anyone can use to help augment the communicative efforts by people who speak a wide variety of languages. Thanks to Megan Sutton of Tactus Therapy Solutions, and Alexandra Kurash who is a speech- language pathologist in Montreal, Canada for posting these resources on a Facebook group. I am so impressed with these products that are available to anyone who needs them. With a bit of creativity they can be enormously helpful! They can be downloaded for free as a PDF or Word file into a tablet computer or printed onto paper. I suggest that the pages be laminated or placed in sheet protectors to avoid damage.
This free resource was developed by Eastern Health Transcultural Services to assist health professionals and individuals who have language difficulties or problems communicating with each other. It offers communication boards in many languages.English, Spanish, Hebrew, Yiddish, Mandarin, and Cantonese are just a few of the many languages that their products support. There can be 4 or 20 images per page. It is possible to created customized pages by using the tool bar at the top of the screen. Image size can also be changed. This is a wonderful tool for people all over the globe who have communication challenges. Please pass along this information to others who can benefit. Users have to log in with their email address but that is it- there is no fee attached.
Free Widgit Health Resources for Download in Multiple Languages
Check out the many products that are available for free download that can be used inmultiple languages to support health care related communication. Downloads include phrases to be used at bedside, a page focusing on communications about accidents and injuries and another focusing on dental procedures. 26 languages are supported.
Additional free English communication board resources can be found on Amy Reinstein’s wondeful Blog.