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Aids For Communicating With Hospitalized People? 160

charliezcc writes "My grandmother recently fell and broke two vertebrae (among other things) and is in the hospital while she recovers. Thankfully, she was not paralyzed and retains the use of her limbs. However, they have placed her on a respirator and she is virtually unable to communicate with us, so while we try to keep her company during her recovery, our company is reduced to mainly one-sided conversations. Asking her questions, even yes/no questions, is hard because of the neck brace — it turns into a guessing game and very quickly becomes frustrating for both parties. I'm a firm believer in the power of positive mental attitudes and to make her recovery a little better and I'd like to be able to facilitate two-sided conversations with her so she can keep positive. Keeping in mind that she does not have much technology experience, what would you suggest I utilize to ease the communication barrier? I remember seeing devices with a number of buttons that say whatever you program it to say, but I can't find these anymore. What other kind of devices are available?"
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Aids For Communicating With Hospitalized People?

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  • Paper and pencil?
    • It has to be a pen at least, and better one of those pressurised ones which can write under water (You never know).

      • by spineboy ( 22918 ) on Sunday August 19, 2007 @10:52AM (#20285739) Journal
        Pencil and paper, or some type of pointing board with common phrases/questions/answers on it. Most hospitals will have both.

        As far as having his GRANDMOTHER learn any new technological choices, while in a hospital, sedated, on a ventilator, in a neck brace - FORGET IT. She's not gonna learn sign language easily, except yes/no. If she can't even write, because of medication/delirium/whatever, then she's not going to be able to learn new ways of communicating.

        Sounds like she's an old lady, and somewhat frail like many older people. Becoming intubated for a vertebrae fracture is not normal, so I think she probably has multiple medical problems (I'm a doctor).

        Stick to what she knows, and is comfortable - and she will do better with it.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by networkBoy ( 774728 )
          I realize it's likely cost prohibitive, but from what I've seen of Mr (Dr, Sir?) Hawkings kit, the UI is very intuitive, especially for the portions where you're not trying to build a sentence (or a speech for that matter). You look at what you want to say and if you either blink or hover long enough the computer says it. It'd make yes/no I hurt, etc. questions a cakewalk.

          @ spineboy
          Assuming these are *not* cheap, how much is too much (IYHO) before a hospital would not buy them to have on hand in cases li
          • by wing03 ( 654457 ) on Sunday August 19, 2007 @10:53PM (#20289753)
            "I realize it's likely cost prohibitive, but from what I've seen of Mr (Dr, Sir?) Hawkings kit, the UI is very intuitive, especially for the portions where you're not trying to build a sentence (or a speech for that matter). You look at what you want to say and if you either blink or hover long enough the computer says it. It'd make yes/no I hurt, etc. questions a cakewalk."

            It's called a Dynavox. []

            IIRC, my wife who's in the field of speach therapy and augmentative communications, mentioned he uses a switch that measures muscle tension and a scanning keyboard/UI to pick and choose his words.

            Yes, they are expensive. They also need training to use as well as it needing training, setup and/or direction from a speach therapist to a caregiver in order to setup.

            For someone in a hospital, a communication board (8x10, 11x17 or whatever grid of organized pictures and letters) is more effective and simple. Most hospitals should have these to communicate basic needs like itchiness, pain, sensory answers a nurse of doctor would ask.

        • by OhPlz ( 168413 )
          I was surprised that my local hospital couldn't come up with either while I had a stay there, unable to speak. I had done a great job shattering my jaw. In the ER I answered by holding up fingers, which was frustrating because I couldn't express much other than yes or no. It wasn't until several days after surgery that a nurse finally came up with a pen and notepad.

          If I was in pain or feeling nauseas or whatever, I could hit the call button but couldn't say anything. They'd have to come right away not k
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      >Paper and pencil?

      Listen, this is Slashdot. Stop being practical and start thinking like a wannabe nerd.

      Don't listen to him, Charliezcc! Here's what you have to do: First get a PDA - not a current one, mind you, but something old and preferably unpopular.

      Then, port Linux to it. You'll probably have to write the handwriting recognition software yourself, but no problem, right?

      Once done, it will be the ideal device to facilitate two-way conversation between you and your grandmother.

      Off you go! Shouldn't ta
      • Actually, a thumb mouse and computer with a projector as the monitor pointing in the direction her head naturally looks in the position she is laying in where she could just move a trackball and trigger to click on phrases like yes, no, leg, arm, pain, 0-10, and maybe one of those software keyboards so some words could be spelled out by selecting the letter and squeezing the trigger might do quite well.

        If she can control her thumb enough to move the pointer that is, or maybe some sort of laser controlled mo
    • Re:Paper and pencil? (Score:4, Informative)

      by mrbooze ( 49713 ) on Sunday August 19, 2007 @11:46AM (#20286105)
      The hospital I worked in something like 15+ years ago had a supply of Magna Doodles. (I think that's what they were called, basically a toy that you could write on with a magnetic "pencil" and easily wipe off anything you wrote by sliding a level.)

      They kept a few around the ICU/CCU for patients that needed them to communicate. At the time I sort of assumed that most hospitals kept some sort of tools around for that purpose.

      • Re:Paper and pencil? (Score:5, Informative)

        by maxwells_deamon ( 221474 ) on Sunday August 19, 2007 @01:24PM (#20286671) Homepage
        A magna doodle is the way to go if possible. Paper piles up very quickly.

        I had jaw surgery many years ago and went to the toy stores beforehand to get a couple of magic slates and they had just come out with the magna doodle so I bought one.

        After the surgery, at the start of each of the first 4 shifts a nurse would come into my room and see it and say "OMG where did you get this?" "Could I borrow it for the floor meeting, Please" It would go away for a half hour and then come back. They did lots of jaw surgeries on that floor and were very tired of papers laying everywhere.

        As I was wired shut for 7 weeks I even took it with me afterwards to shop and such.

        Just make sure you write her name on the frame so she gets it back.
        • Paper piles up very quickly.

          I still turn up various note pads and jottings in the margins of magazines from when my father was unable to speak after throat surgery (didn't really fix the problem). It's incredible how something like 15 years later, I can still remember the entire conversation from these odd little scraps.
  • by janrinok ( 846318 ) on Sunday August 19, 2007 @08:08AM (#20284933)
    I sympathise with your problem and wish your grandmother well. But try to get her to blink rather than nod her head. It is used quite frequently in cases such as this. I'm not trying to be rude, nor to sidetrack your question, but while you are doing your research it will enable limited 2 way conversation.
    • by maxume ( 22995 ) on Sunday August 19, 2007 @08:13AM (#20284955)
      Grandma, two fingers for yes, one finger for no. And so on.
    • Yep,

      I work with a high level spinal cord patient with locked-in syndrome. Without going into great detail, the use of technology (any current existing technology) is not an option. We use a letter board. After even one day, it's not nearly as cumbersome as it's about to sound:

      1 A B C D E
      2 F G H I J
      3 K L M N O
      4 P Q R S T
      5 U V W X Y Z

      And it goes like this:

      Person: How are you today? First line, Second line (Patient looks up or blinks)
      Person: "F" "G" "H" "I" (patient looks up or blinks) [First letter is "I"
      • Yes, a similar code can be used for covert comms and is taught to some groups of the military. It works, it is quick to learn, and it can be transmitted in many ways. By touch, sight, sound (e.g. tapping) etc.
    • I sympathise with your problem and wish your grandmother well. But try to get her to blink rather than nod her head. It is used quite frequently in cases such as this. I'm not trying to be rude, nor to sidetrack your question, but while you are doing your research it will enable limited 2 way conversation.

      Unless his poor nanna is going to be in this condition for QUITE some time, I'd hestitate to spend any real money on a technological solution. Hold her hand. One squeeze for no, two for yes. (People of

  • by thornomad ( 1095985 ) on Sunday August 19, 2007 @08:09AM (#20284941)
    If she can move her hands you can setup a type of "communication board" -- the simplest of these can be words written on a piece of paper/cardboard. If she is able to point to them then she can communicate in a limited way. You can have one for basic needs and another for spelling words. That is the less technological version of what some people use (and I can't remember what it is called) that let's someone touch a screen that, in turn, speaks for them. A quick search and I find stuff like this []. I'm sure there is more -- better -- out there. Good luck. That isn't easy.
  • Bed Time (Score:4, Funny)

    by Knunov ( 158076 ) <eat@my.ass> on Sunday August 19, 2007 @08:13AM (#20284953) Homepage
    Time to go to sleep. When I read the headline I thought, "Yeesh, that's a pretty harsh punishment for commuting with hospitalized people. And why do people in the hospital need to be sharing a car, anyway?"
    • by 4D6963 ( 933028 )

      LOL, AIDS for commuting with hospitalized people, here, have this imaginary +1 Funny point :-)

  • you could try these (Score:4, Informative)

    by EricMB20 ( 1144673 ) on Sunday August 19, 2007 @08:14AM (#20284959)
    i've used these products in the past with children with special needs - they're great communication tools - a bit expensive - but good - you can rent them weekly as well so that might be a plus - good luck! []
  • eLocutor (Score:3, Informative)

    by uss_valiant ( 760602 ) on Sunday August 19, 2007 @08:20AM (#20284979) Homepage
    For the extreme case there's eLocutor []. It was designed for Stephen Hawking who can only push a single button. But it also has a mode for users that can control arrow keys in addition to a single button.
    I don't know the field at all and I don't know eLocutor but from an article. Maybe it has a huge learning curve and is thus inappropriate as a short-term solution.
    • Hmm, that's still a tough decision: would you rather have ALS [] and get to use a cool gadget, or, as TFA says, have AIDS and communicate normally? :p
  • by QuickFox ( 311231 ) on Sunday August 19, 2007 @08:21AM (#20284983)
    She probably shouldn't nod and shake her head to signal yes and no, as that may strain her spine. Propose some other signal. The easiest of all is probably that she make the same movements with her fist that she would otherwise make with her head, imitating nod and head-shake with her fist.

    Or better, give her a chart of the Sign Language Alphabet []. With that she can say anything, if she and her listener both have enough patience. With that she could sign "Y" for yes and "N" for no, and in many cases choose among alternatives with just an initial letter.
  • How about morse code, of course, one needs to learn it first. Rest may also good for those in this situation as they may not want to have real, extended conversation anyhow until they are rested.
    • Yes, the code can be done with the feeblest of movements if you set a bencher paddle at her fingers. Learning the code isn't that hard, especially sending it. Receiving it would probably be best done with a computer, or whoever wants to hear what she's talking about _is_ in for a learning experience, which _is_ pretty darn time consuming. And of course she has to want to do it.
      • Sign language (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Migraineman ( 632203 )
        Learning morse takes a buttload of time. It's extremely abstract, and probably isn't going to be easily memorized by someone who's sedated. If she already knows morse, then I'd say it's more of an option.

        Alternatively, teach her a handful of ASL signs. "Yes" is a fist you nod. "No" is two fingers pinched against the thumb. Finger spelling resembles the written characters in many cases, so it shouldn't be a big burden to learn. Don't be afraid to invent signs - that's perfectly valid, especially wh
    • Kudos for an original idea, but do you really expect some old grandmother, sedated, on a respirator, from a minor vertebral break, to learn Morse code? For a young person, it's a better idea, although limited, because not everyone knows Morse code. With pencil and paper, she can communicate with everyone.
      • "on a respirator"

        1. Breathe for "yes". Stop breathing for "no".
        2. Can I have all your money and stuff and pull the plug now? Look she's breathing ... that means "yes".
        3. PROFIT!

        Of course, only a dickhead [] would do that ... Paging Dickhead Cheney ... paging Dickhead Cheney. (oops ... forgot, his preferred weapon is a few shots of booze and a shot to the head).

      • by AB3A ( 192265 )
        Well, there are those of us who DO know the code. And the older you are, the more likely you'll know what it is and how to use it. Besides, I doubt you really have looked in to this, but a morse code keyer requires only very feeble movements to send a string of decently fast morse. It's probably faster than a paper and pencil. And computers can copy the results and display them on a screen.

        It's not as stupid as it sounds for the short term.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    The easist solution is a whiteboard. They make them small enough to hold in one hand.

    Here's the catch though. If she's on a respirator, she's under some level of sedation. She might be pretty awake and all, but she's unlikely to remember much (if anything) while she's on the respirator. (Respirator's are not fun to the body)
  • by fishdan ( 569872 ) on Sunday August 19, 2007 @08:31AM (#20285019) Homepage Journal

    I used to be a Sp.Ed teacher working with severe autistics (which has really made me a great member of a dev team). I had many students who could communicate, but did not have the fine motor skills to speak. High tech is sometimes more than you need. I know you're willing to spend whatever it takes for your grandmother, but in this case, a little time investment may be wiser than a cash investment.

    My first suggestion is American Sign Language [] With a minimal amount of effort you can be communicating simply, and there's no reason to not spend more time learning more and stepping up to high end communication. I find ASL so useful that I've taught it to my friends for communication in loud bars, silent communication in meetings, secret messages we wish to pass in a room full of people, etc.

    In terms of full fledged speakers, since you are not looking for a permanent solution, I'd recommend just using a OSX notebook. Open up the terminal, and type 'say hello world' You get the hang of it really quickly. On the windows side, Read Please [] is quite competent, and has a 30 day free trial period. Plus there is probably wifi in the hospital...

    If you don't have a laptop that she can use, I would suggested printed boards. The 800 lbs gorilla in the field is Mayer-Johnson []. Look around their products and see if maybe you can get away with something like their Picture Exchange Communication System []. Essentially they are cards with pictures on them that can be used for communication. It's not a great system for an adult, but if you need something temporary it's only $179.

    I wish your Grandmother a speedy recovery.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by 0123456789 ( 467085 )
      An alternative to OS X (or, at least, an OS independent solution) for text to speech is to use Emacs.


      Take a look at EmacsSpeak [], which handles text to speech (as well as speech to text).

      Having said that, if nodding and shaking her head are too much; I doubt typing will be an option either. I think one of the lower tech solutions are more likely to be useful. Good luck!

    • I thought that the 800 lb gorilla in the field. . .was an 800 lb gorilla? With about 500 words vocabulary. Seriously, though this is an area geeks ought to work on. Another case are stroke survivors with the inability to speak, poor hand coordination, but still "all there"
    • Just type 'say' and press return. Now type a phrase. Press return. You can now just type what you need to say and press return after each phrase, rather than typing 'say' each time.
  • Simple interface. I highly doubt someone alive doesn't know what a typewriter is.

    have a TV or large monitor brought in with a mouse... the interface can be VERY simple... the standard typewriter layout with a text box for feedback, and a "finished" button allowing her to display what was typed.

    additional optional buttons could be "yes", "no", "thank you", or other simple often used responses.
    • have a TV or large monitor brought in with a mouse... Don't bring a pickup truck-full of electronics into the hospital room. The nurses have enough to do without stumbling over cords from devices you brought from home. The original poster said that the patient was on a ventilator. There are probably already quite a few electronic medical devices in the patient's room. If you are thinking of bringing in something bigger than a laptop, check with the nurses on that unit first.

      Yes, I work in
  • I think ASL is the best solution. If she is up to it, and wants a mental chalenge, find a tutor. A local Deaf Ed, or Speech Pathology student, or the hospitol's ASL interperetor. If I were that incapacitated (I know my spelling blows) I would CRAVE this kind of mental challenge. Sinple Yes, no, maybee, later, now, alphabet.... I would think it would be a real shot in the arm. You need to attend her sessions too, and take it seriously. Limited ASL can be very intuitive as well.
  • When I lost my voice for a few days from tonsilitis, I carried around my laptop (an iBook G4) and used Apple's text-to-speech program. You can highlight any bit of text and it will read it. If she can type, this would be an option. It suited me pretty well... definitely made for an interesting game of D&D =P If you have an old laptop lying around of any variety, I'm sure there's a program you can download for Windows or Linux that does the same thing (Vista may even have it, I haven't checked).
  • If I was hospitalized, on a ventilator but with use of my limbs then I'd want a laptop balanced on my stomach - I can touchtype and wouldn't even need to look at the keyboard.

    For those who can't do this, they have systems out there that allow you to spell words just by looking at the letters and blinking, which then convert to speech.

  • Low-tech solutions sometimes are the best... What about a small piece of whiteboard or the paper/cardboard idea mentioned before?

    Other ideas include an Ouija board.

  • I am a stroke survivor. the palm form factor was just becoming ubiquitous when I was in rehab. I saw many applications for what I thought of as an "institutional computer", one they hand you at the door of the institution. in addition to the obvious (and not so obvious) communications uses. (I had a roommmate who spoke only thai. needless to say the staff did not, such a computer could also be used to provide you info on your condition, and be used to track your progress and help you with the ADLs of rehab
  • Read to her? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by beadfulthings ( 975812 ) on Sunday August 19, 2007 @08:52AM (#20285131) Journal
    If your grandmother is stuck on her back, and it sounds like she is, she might enjoy an occasional reading session--not too lengthy, though. Check at home. Does she subscribe to any particular magazines or to the newspaper? Chances are she's missing those. Any particular authors she enjoys? Something lightweight in her favorite genre (mystery, sci-fi, thriller, classics whatever) might be enjoyable. Religious? Bible or other scripture might be wanted. Of course you can get audiobooks of all sorts, but the actual presence of somebody she loves, who cares enough to take time with her, is a good medicine in and of itself. Check with the occupational therapy folks regarding the boards they have for communicating needs/wants.
  • Pencils + paper (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    When my great-grandmother was on a respirator, we just used pencils and a pad of paper. It worked remarkably well.

    I would also point out that my great-grandmother found the pencils very useful for making her points. For instance: if people weren't paying attention to what she was trying to say, she'd break her pencil in half and throw it at the offending parties. Very effective.

    You could also try a laptop, but if the person isn't comfortable typing, then it isn't really as effective a solution as you mig
  • by Anonymous Coward
    While I'd agree that simple pencil and paper is often easiest, I thought I'd post this link to Dasher, which is a pretty cool little program for alternative methods of text entry... it can be eye controlled, breath controlled, finger controlled, pretty much anything, and apparently has a fairly quick learning curve, after which you can enter text over 30 words per minute- []
    • Hmm.. I just tried their web version, and while interesting it's not quite as simple as it seems-- I thought I was entering "here are my answers" and when I was done saw that what it read was "here are move and swear." I presume I'd get better at entering it eventually, but it was confusing because I'd often spot the letter I was looking for in the look-ahead for a letter that I didn't want before I'd see it as the *next* letter I was looking for-- it was not quite obvious how to deal with the problem.

  • Wow, and I thought it was bad enough to have a computer virus!
  • by Tsu Dho Nimh ( 663417 ) <> on Sunday August 19, 2007 @09:17AM (#20285241)
    A small whiteboard and marker pen
    Pen and paper

    There's no need to go any higher-tech than that, because you would have to teach her how to use the device instead of using her existing knowledge of how to write.

    • I'd add a few prewritten flashcards for 'no', 'yes', and 'thanks for dropping by'. Other than that, you've nailed it right on the head.
      High tech stuff can break, crash, have its batteries die, etc... etc... Why keep forcing its use rather than questioning whether or not it is appropriate in the first place?
  • Just for trying to talk to them? That's a bit harsh!
  • i would suggest searching for "augmentative and alternative communication" or "communication aids" or "AAC). Wikipedia lists a number of resources. You can also try [] which is the AAC site from the University of Nebraska and has loads of resources. Also you can look into [] which is a federally funded center for research in AAC.
  • Low Tech (Score:4, Insightful)

    by sakusha ( 441986 ) on Sunday August 19, 2007 @09:49AM (#20285391)
    This problem requires a low tech solution. And fortunately, this is a problem that has a lot of practical solutions, derived from years of experience dealing with hospitalized, incapacitated patients. I used these to help take care of my mom, she was unable to talk.

    Consult your hospital, they often have little message boards. There are some that have a little flip chart at the top, divided into functional categories like "I feel.. (sleepy, nauseous, good, thirsty etc.)" I want (water, pain meds, bedpan, etc.)" and then it has an alphabet at the bottom to spell out words that aren't on the chart, along with a list of common words so she doesn't have to spell them out (it, and, the, etc.).

    If she can write, I recommend a "Magna-Doodle" pad. Very easy to use, clears with a push of the lever, designed for little kids so it's easy to use even for someone weak and incapacitated. Get a big Magna-doodle pad, that makes it easier to write long messages, or write big if you have poor motor control.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I second the recommendation for a Magna Doodle if she can write. We got my mother a large one after her 2nd surgery to treat cancer because she was unable to talk. It really worked out well, especially when she was weak because she could rest it on her lap or the small table attached to the bed. You can give it to kids when it is no longer needed and let them enjoy it then.
  • It's too bad some product, like from [], aren't readily available to all hospitals. Maybe they do, as they're not cheap, but very useful with someone with a permanent condition.
  • All will depnd on her ability to do anything. Asuming she can use her hands, you could connect this keyboard [] to a portable. The portable only needs to run some sort of simple editor wiith a huge font, so she can read it easily.

    If you want a solution, you need to give more infor on her ability.
  • Paper and pencil? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by kbahey ( 102895 ) on Sunday August 19, 2007 @10:17AM (#20285525) Homepage
    First, hope she gets well soon.

    Why must hi-tech be the answer?

    Why not use paper and pencil?

    Are her hands free? She can gesture yes and no in a way that you can tell her to.
    • by Jah-Wren Ryel ( 80510 ) on Sunday August 19, 2007 @02:41PM (#20287105)

      Why must hi-tech be the answer?
      Because this is

      Low tech is handled by
      • by kbahey ( 102895 )
        hmm ... ok ... /me visits

        Ummm, seems like it has no content, parked domain...

        Joking aside ...

        His Grandma is not tech savvy, nor in a position to learn tech stuff in that situation. So the path of least resistance is to use low tech ...
        • Actually, only bad tech is distinguishable as "tech" -- good tech should be entirely intuitive based on typical skills that people already have, even old people.
  • After my father's hear surgery many years ago he was intubated and couldn't communicate. I quickly drew up a chart of all the letters, numerals and "YES" and "NO". He spelled out "SEDATIVE".

    People were impressed with it, but it's bloody obvious.
  • Try Abledata [] or Assistivetech [].
  • If you have a cheap laptop around, you can install Dasher []. It requires virtually no mouse movement to write text, and it's actually fun to use too!
  • Keeping in mind that she does not have much technology experience, what would you suggest I utilize to ease the communication barrier? I remember seeing devices with a number of buttons that say whatever you program it to say, but I can't find these anymore. What other kind of devices are available?

    Please accept my heart-felt best wishes for your grandmother's speedy recovery. (My mom was on a respirator for a couple weeks and it was difficult.) I also commend you for being pro-active about trying to find ways to help her.

    As a card-carrying nerd, I immediately thought of high-tech solutions to the problem of my Mom's inability to talk. It bothered her and I wanted to find a way so she could TALK. As I ran through one possibility after another, I found that elegance and complexity is not necess

  • If she can flash her eyelids, wiggle a finger, or stick out her tongue to indicate yes or no, go with it. Putting technology here will only make it worse. How would you "tech support" something like that? Tech will be foreign to her (as it it to MY mom who's in a nursing home) and you just need to keep it simple.

    Now long term, it's possible to do something tying muscle-control to a light, for example, but where you are now, keep it simple. She's hurting and feeling out of control.

    And good luck to her!
  • set her up with a laptop and internet access(verizon unlimited business wireless card???) and set up some book marks to a bunch of sound boards... Sure, she might not sound quite like herself, but you'll be rolling around on the floor laughing your butt off... ;-)
  • This is exactly what I do for a living.

    Consider how long her recovery is expected to last. If she will be off the vent and speaking soon, you probably can make do with some low-tech solution or a stock laptop. A whiteboard and/or a cardboard alphabet and some immediately useful messages.

    If it is going to be a while (more than a couple weeks) insist that the speech therapist at the hospital see her. Insurance will pay for speech therapy if you go the "Communication allows for active participation in care

  • Our t86i allows us to set ringtones and once can set their own. The useful part is when you go to any phone number in the addressbook and assign a ringtone, you move the up/down button through the ringtones and they play the one the cursor is on.

    So, on a modern mobile phone, record your voice for YES and NO and label them so they show up in the top of the list. Then, practice making it play each ringtone with the up/down buttons and then show/teach your grandma how to touch the buttons to "talk".

    You can add
  • If the hospital where your grandmother is at has a pediatric speech and hearing clinic, wander over and visit them. A number of other writers have suggested products like Boardmaker (Mayer-Johnson) and Dynavox products. Depending on your grandmother's level of functioning, she may only be able to operate a one-button switch right now. The most common type is called a Big Mack. The pediatric rehab and speech clinic would likely be kind enough to loan you a simple device, and help you make some communicat
  • When my granddad was in the hospital with a repirator and a feeding tube and all that, we got a smaller whiteboard, and velcro'd a marker and eraser to it. Worked very well.
  • Did this seriously go for this long without anyone mentioning Captain Pike?

    Give her the buzzer from a game of Taboo or something and tell her one beep for yes and two beeps for no.
  • "Aids for communicating with hospitalized people"

    What a cruel and unusual punishment, and I thought communicating with hospitalized people was regarded as something desirable.
  • We first used a large clear board with a keyboard printed on it. All we had to do was have him look at a letter and then we would move the bord around till he looked us in the eye. Then the letter we were looking at was the one he wanted to use. It would eventualy type something out. That is not a good long term plan so we bought a vanguard II from and it worked by tracking an infrared dot on his chin to move a curser. if held the curser over a letter for a seccond it would punch it.
  • When my father had broken several vertebrae in his neck, he was in a halo collar to stabilize his neck. With the swelling of the fracture site, he lost the ability to swallow and speak. So, we purchased a small 8x14 inch white board and some dry erase markers. He had been unable to speak or communicate for several days before that, and his first words were based on a conversation the doctors had about his medication they had 2 days earlier. It was incredibly frustrating for him not to communicate.

    Though he
  • Since he's asking for technological ideas, obviously the no-brainers, like pencil/paper, whiteboard, waxboard, etc.. are beyond her current mobility. A morse code key - a straight key connected to an oscillator is a simple and easily-grasped idea. While I love the idea of setting her up an FT-817 and a window-mounted antenna so she can just talk to everyone, teaching the code to someody in that condition is unlikely. The moment the key and oscillator is hooked up, she's up to Christopher Pike []-level commun
  • by dircha ( 893383 ) on Sunday August 19, 2007 @03:14PM (#20287289)
    This is sort of like when some technology guys decides that if we can just get computers running Linux into sub-Saharan Africa, we'll save the world.

    If your grandmother is on a respirator, the last thing she needs is for someone to interrogate her. She's your grandmother, not a dying secret agent.

    Listen, just be with her where she can see you. Read a book. Hold her hand. Talk gently to her. Tell her that you're there. Tell her who is in the room with her. Tell her who is coming to see her. Tell her about news in the family. Tell her what your children have been up to.

    You know, things people have done for thousands of years to comfort their loved ones who have fallen ill?

    Turn off your ipod and your blackberry and think a little, man. Technology may not cause cancer, but apparently it has an affect on common sense.

    • I mean, come on, don't you think if you were in her place you would WANT to communicate with people?

      I'm sure if you handed her an iPhone and asked her to do multi-touch typing, that wouldn't work out. But I am also quite sure there are plenty of solutions that might indeed help and would not be in the least bit intimidating for someone not particularly comfortable with typical tech stuff. Just because she is old and injured doesn't mean she is stupid.

      And btw, your condescending attitude is annoying.
      • I'm sure if you handed her an iPhone and asked her to do multi-touch typing...

        That wouldn't be suitable in a hospital.

        In hospital, patients are not normally given a designer coffee table replete with African tribal carving ornament on which to store their Apple products.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      This is awful advice. What about the question made it sound like the family wasn't already spending time with her, talking gently and being reassuring? Up until now they've been trying to communicate and it has not been effective. She is not in a coma, she still has information to contribute.

      The last thing she really needs is to be told that the things she has to say don't matter.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by YoungHack ( 36385 )
      > If your grandmother is on a respirator, the last thing she needs is for someone to interrogate her. She's your grandmother, not a dying secret agent.

      You sir have no idea what you are talking about. I had a close family member who was unable to communicate for weeks (among other disabilities). She said that was absolutely the worst part of her hospital experience.

      Talking to a person who wants to talk back is little comfort. Being unable to communicate is being in prison, solitary confinement, whether
    • Listen, just be with her where she can see you. Read a book. Hold her hand. Talk gently to her. Tell her that you're there. Tell her who is in the room with her. Tell her who is coming to see her. Tell her about news in the family. Tell her what your children have been up to.
      ...and watch her go fucking insane since you've given her no opportunity to communicate the fact that she wants you to scratch the itch on her knee and change the TV channel.
  • Keep it low tech. You can give her a very bright laser pointer (or a telescopic antenna pointer if she is too shaky for a laser) with a wrist strap. A white board on the wall or tri-pod, with some markers so you and others can write common requests/demands/answers on it. A hospital may already have a printed wall chart exactly for this purpose.
  • There are a lot of good suggestions in the thread, and I agree the simplest are the best. Another suggestion is to seek out the Hospital Chaplain -- even if you and/or your grandmother are not religious. Most likely, they will have dealt with this kind of situation. They will be able to help you and your grandmother talk (not just communicate. And unlike anyone else you will meet in the hospital, can probably invest some serious time helping you.

  • I have an oral deaf friend (lipreads and speaks) who regularly interprets at her local hospital in this sort of scenario. I think she even did a research project on this topic.

    Depending on where you are, you might be able to find a non-professional who is willing to help out once in a while. The hospital's interpreter service might be a good place to start. If they don't have an explicit person with this skill sometimes oral interpreters are decent lipreaders. Note that I'm stressing "oral" - these are not

  • Not only can she communicate, she can savor the irony.
  • "What other kind of devices are available?"

    The ones on the end of her arms. Teach her (and you) American Sign Language. Prop up a page with the alphabet on it, and maybe a few one-handed, more useful signs (yes, no, etc.) and have at it. It's cheaper, it's easier to learn (compared to a non-techie trying to learn tech), and it's useful outside this particular need. Learning is good for older brains, and learning a language, with motor skills involved, sounds like excellent mental exercise to me.

    And imagine
  • []

    I've seen this device since back in the 90's, and most of geeks have seen this EEG reader.
    brain eeg: 3931.htm []

    I couldn't find "BUY NOW" button, but soon after googling, I kind got an impression that it's over a grand (USD) for complete kit (including software). So I'm not 100% if that's what you are willing to shell out. And on top of that, you and your grandma have to go through intensive training to fine tune the device so that she is
  • Seriously, instead of asking Slashdot, ask for a Physical and/or Speach Therapist at the hospital. This has been taken care of time and time again by them and you should really trust their opinion.
  • She doesn't need to know how to use it- just bring up notepad and let her type, even if it is slow one letter at a time. I'm sorry if I missed something about her situation that would prevent this.

    Good luck to her, and you.
  • My Mom is a speech pathologist (so was dad, but he taught) and she frequently has "word boards" with various pictures and simple words on them. Point and ummm... point. Works good.
  • I can't believe nobody has suggested Morse code. Or perhaps someone did, and it's under my moderation level, but even then it needs to be modded up. If there was ever a good reason to learn Morse code, it's so that when you get paralyzed and can only move one digit, you'll still be able to communicate by tapping your little toe.

    Nerds! Geeks! Where are you? Why hasn't someone's suggestion of Morse code been at least moderated "Funny" if nothing else?
  • Have your doctor talk to the speech therapist or occupational therapist. They have are professionally-trained to deal with this stuff and have lots of resources to help overcome this problem.

"The Avis WIZARD decides if you get to drive a car. Your head won't touch the pillow of a Sheraton unless their computer says it's okay." -- Arthur Miller