#SPEECHLESS! A day without being able to speak.

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national-aphasia

Language is much more than words. It involves our ability to recognize and use words and sentences. Much of this capability resides in the left hemisphere of the brain.

Through language, we:

  • Communicate our inner thoughts, desires, intentions and motivations.
  • Understand what others say to us.
  • Ask questions.
  • Give commands.
  • Comment and interchange.
  • Listen.
  • Speak.
  • Read.
  • Write.

June is National Aphasia Awareness Month.  Most people are unaware of what Aphasia is or how someone can become affected by Aphasia. According to the National Aphasia Association, Aphasia is an impairment of language, affecting the production or comprehension of speech and the ability to read or write. Aphasia is always due to injury to the brain-most commonly from a stroke, particularly in older individuals. But brain injuries resulting in aphasia may also arise from head trauma, from brain tumors, or from infections.

Aphasia can be so severe as to make communication with the patient almost impossible, or it can be very mild. It may affect mainly a single aspect of language use, such as the ability to retrieve the names of objects, or the ability to put words together into sentences, or the ability to read. More commonly, however, multiple aspects of communication are impaired, while some channels remain accessible for a limited exchange of information. It is the job of the professional to determine the amount of function available in each of the channels for the comprehension of language, and to assess the possibility that treatment might enhance the use of the channels that are available.

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Common Questions

What Causes Aphasia?
The most common cause of aphasia is stroke (about 25-40% of stroke survivors acquire aphasia). It can also result from head injury, brain tumor or other neurological causes.

How Common is Aphasia?
Aphasia affects about one million Americans -or 1 in 250 people- and is more common than Parkinson’s Disease, cerebral palsy or muscular dystrophy. More than 200,000 Americans acquire the disorder each year. However, most people have never heard of it.

Who Acquires Aphasia?
While aphasia is most common among older people, it can occur in people of all ages, races, nationalities and gender.

Can a Person Have Aphasia Without Having a Physical Disability?
Yes, but many people with aphasia also have weakness or paralysis of their right leg and right arm. When a person acquires aphasia it is usually due to damage on the left side of the brain, which controls movements on the right side of the body.

Can People Who Have Aphasia Return to Their Jobs?
Sometimes. Since most jobs require speech and language skills, aphasia can make some types of work difficult. Individuals with mild or even moderate aphasia are sometimes able to work, but they may have to change jobs.

How Long Does it Take to Recover from Aphasia?
If the symptoms of aphasia last longer than two or three months after a stroke, a complete recovery is unlikely. However, it is important to note that some people continue to improve over a period of years and even decades. Improvement is a slow process that usually involves both helping the individual and family understand the nature of aphasia and learning compensatory strategies for communicating.

How Do You Communicate With a Person With Aphasia?
According to the Stroke Association following these simple suggestions can be very helpful.

  • It is important to make the distinction between language and intelligence.
  • Many people mistakenly think they are not as smart as they used to be.
  • Their problem is that they cannot use language to communicate what they know.
  • They can think, they just can’t say what they think.
  • They can remember familiar faces.
  • They can get from place to place.
  • They still have political opinions, for example.
  • They may still be able to play chess, for instance.

The challenge for all caregivers and health professionals is to provide people with aphasia a means to express what they know. Through intensive work in rehabilitation, gains can be made to avoid the frustration and isolation that aphasia can create.

Excerpted from the article “Talking Tough?”, Stroke Connection May/June 2004 (Last science update March 2013)

For most, a stroke has a startling and life-altering effect on both the survivor and family members. All involved find themselves trying to come to terms with changes ranging from physical and sensory loss to loss of speech and language.

For many survivors, this loss or change in speech (dysarthria, apraxia) and language (aphasia) profoundly alters their social life. Ironically, research has shown that socializing is one of the best ways to maximize stroke recovery. Many experts contend that socializing should begin right away in the recovery process.

For many people living with aphasia, dysarthria or apraxia, the question then becomes: How can they socialize if they can’t communicate the way they used to?

Family members can facilitate communication with some simple techniques:

  • Ask yes/no questions.
  • Paraphrase periodically during conversation.
  • Modify the length and complexity of conversations.
  • Use gestures to emphasize important points.
  • Establish a topic before beginning conversation.

Your environment also can help support successful socialization. Survivors have told us that it is easiest to begin practicing conversation in a one-on-one situation with someone they are comfortable with and who understands communication disorders.

In addition:

  • Practice conversation in a quiet, distraction-free environment.
  • As you become more confident, slowly add more conversational partners but continue to limit distractions such as background noise (music, other talking, TV).
  • As you become more comfortable in one-to-one or small group interactions, explore less-controlled social situations with your speech-language pathologist, close friends and family, or other stroke survivors.
  • Before you attend these gatherings, practice common things discussed in a variety of situations. For example, “How are you?” “It’s been a long time since I’ve seen you.”
  • Practice a few statements about current events: “Did you see the basketball game?” or “Boy, we are having beautiful weather!”
  • The more you practice this script, the greater your chances for success.
  • Family members can prepare written cues, or organize pictures to promote interactions

Does Aphasia Affect a Person’s Intelligence?
NO. A person with aphasia may have difficulty retrieving words and names, but the person’s intelligence is basically intact. Aphasia is not like Alzheimer’s disease; for people with aphasia it is the ability to access ideas and thoughts through language – not the ideas and thoughts themselves- that is disrupted. But because people with aphasia have difficulty communicating, others often mistakenly assume they are mentally ill or have mental retardation.

Are All Cases of Aphasia Alike?
No.There are many types of aphasia.Some people have difficulty speaking while others may struggle to follow a conversation. In some people, aphasia is fairly mild and you might not notice it right away. In other cases, it can be very severe, affecting speaking, writing, reading, and listening. While specific symptoms can vary greatly, what all people with aphasia have in common are difficulties in communicating.

Types of Aphasia:

  • Expressive aphasia (non-fluent): With expressive aphasia, the person knows what he or she wants to say, yet has difficulty communicating it to others. It doesn’t matter whether the person is trying to say or write what he or she is trying to communicate.
  • Receptive aphasia (fluent): With receptive aphasia, the person can hear a voice or read the print, but may not understand the meaning of the message. Oftentimes, someone with receptive aphasia takes language literally. Their own speech may be disturbed because they do not understand their own language.
  • Anomic aphasia. With anomic aphasia, the person has word-finding difficulties. This is called anomia. Because of the difficulties, the person struggles to find the right words for speaking and writing.
  • Global aphasia. This is the most severe type of aphasia. It is often seen right after someone has a stroke. With global aphasia, the person has difficulty speaking and understanding words. In addition, the person is unable to read or write.
  • Primary progressive aphasia. Primary progressive aphasia is a rare disorder where people slowly lose their ability to talk, read, write, and comprehend what they hear in conversation over a period of time. With a stroke, aphasia may improve with proper therapy. There is no treatment to reverse primary progressive aphasia. People with primary progressive aphasia are able to communicate in ways other than speech. For instance, they might use gestures. And many benefit from a combination of speech therapy and medications.

How is Aphasia Diagnosed?

Usually, a doctor first diagnoses aphasia when treating a patient for a stroke, brain injury, or tumor. Using a series of neurological tests, the doctor may ask the person questions. The doctor may also issue specific commands and ask the person to name different items or objects. The results of these tests help the doctor determine if the person has aphasia. They also help determine the severity of the aphasia.

How Is Aphasia Treated?

Treatment for someone with aphasia depends on factors such as:

  • Age
  • Cause of brain injury
  • Type of aphasia
  • Position and size of the brain lesion

For instance, a person with aphasia may have a brain tumor that’s affecting the language center of the brain. Surgery to treat the brain tumor may also improve the aphasia.

A person with aphasia who has had a stroke may benefit from sessions with a speech-language pathologist. The therapist will meet regularly with the person to increase his or her ability to speak and communicate. The therapist will also teach the person ways to communicate that don’t involve speech. This will help the person compensate for language difficulties.

Here are some tips from the National Stroke Association for someone with aphasia:

  • Use props to help get the message across.
  • Draw words or pictures on paper when trying to communicate.
  • Speak slowly and stay calm when talking.

Carry a card to let strangers know you have aphasia and what aphasia means.

About Hands of Compassion

Hands of Compassion, a Medicare certified, CHAP accredited, repeat Homecare Elite Top Agency recipient, and provides compassionate care to qualified elderly and disabled persons. Services provided include: Skilled Nursing, Physical Therapy, Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Home Health Aides and Companions. They serve 18 counties in the West Texas area. For the last 5 years Hands of Compassion was recognized by Homecare Elite, ocshomecare.com, which ranked them Top Agency for Positive Patient Outcomes in the nation. “Healthcare that unites hands with hearts.”

Contact Hands of Compassion Home Care serving West Texas at (432) 218-7996 or visit HOC’s website atwww.hochomecare.com. #GOHOCGO #APHASIAAWARENESS #BESTHOMEHEALTH #JUNEISHERE 

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