All Posts Tagged: Aphasia Awareness

What Aphasia Looks Like, and What to do About it

Last week we learned about a patient who had Aphasia, and what it was like for him and his family. Each patient is different when it comes to rehabilitation, but every patient can benefit from a family member that is aware of their condition. Aphasia Awareness Month is the perfect time to learn more about this condition. When a patient experiences damage to the parts of the brain where language occurs, we call this “aphasia.” Aphasia can cause a person to lose their abilities to process language, be it in expression or comprehension.  Most often, the left side of the brain is the one responsible for aphasia and causes the affected person to encounter difficulties with speech and comprehension.

Many of our aphasia patients are stroke survivors. Although things like brain tumors and traumatic brain injury can also be responsible, stroke is most-often the culprit for the language struggles that we help our patients work through.

Common symptoms of aphasia:

Patients with aphasia often display issues with both comprehension and expression.

When most of the problems lie in the comprehension or reception of language, this is often classified as “Wernicke’s Aphasia.” While a sufferer can sometimes pick up on the melody or cadence of a sentence (determining if it’s a command or question, for example), they might have problems understanding the specific words that are being said. Since a person’s vocabulary is housed in the left side of the brain, understanding of words can sometimes be affected, as well as the concept of stringing words together to form a full thought.

When the issues mostly lie in the survivor’s ability to express themselves, it usually falls under the category of “Broca’s Aphasia.” In this case, the symptoms are more outwardly visible, as the patient struggles greatly with speech and the construction of sentences. Aphasia, in this case, can present itself in a variety of ways. Sometimes a patient will create something that sounds like a sentence, but is comprised of gibberish-like words. Other times, they might be able to get out enough words to get an idea across, but leave out small connecting words like “the” or “and.” When all areas of language are hindered, it is referred to as “global aphasia.”

Support

The range of symptoms that can occur during aphasia is wide and varied, but the factor that stays constant is a need of support. Through the support of family members, friends, and rehabilitative therapists, a person suffering from aphasia has a better chance of getting back on the road to understanding and function.

What can you do?

The word “aphasia” can be intimidating. While it is definitely a serious condition, it is one that can be worked with and, to some degrees, overcome.

Recognize… that aphasia has not affected the patient’s intelligence. It has altered their ability to communicate and understand language, but their personality, memories, and knowledge remains. Remembering that the same person you’ve always known resides behind this communication disorder can be grounding and encouraging.

Take the time… to learn your suffering family member’s struggles and specific communicative needs. After a period of routine, you’ll be able to discern how to understand and communicate with your loved one, bringing a sense of comfort and progress to the both of you.

Create… an environment that is conducive to focus and treatment. When a person has difficulty understanding the simplest of words, even the simplest of distractions can be a deterrent to progress. Eliminate extra sounds and excessive visual stimulations, so that your loved one can focus on the task at hand. Simplifying your questions to yes/no and slowing down your rate of speech can encourage success.

Explore… different methods of therapy. Sometimes drawing, writing, and even the encouragement of socialization can stimulate progress in a stroke survivor’s language. It is important to keep communication with your loved one’s therapist open so that you can learn about techniques that may be specifically helpful to your situation.

We understand that recovery is a process that can take its toll on not only the patient but their support systems as well. To alleviate some of the pressure, we encourage you to seek help from rehabilitative professionals, Speech-language pathologists being an ideal option, to make this process as successful as possible.

 

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Aphasia Awareness Month

June is National Aphasia Awareness Month, and, because aphasia is something the team here at Corpus Christi Rehabilitation Hospital encounters frequently, we feel very strongly about spreading awareness of this condition.

Aphasia is a neurological condition that is acquired. This means that something, often a stroke, inflicts damage to the brain and causes normal functions to be interrupted or altered. In the case of aphasia, the damage occurs in the parts of the brain that are responsible for language. A patient suffering from aphasia will often have a difficult time reading and writing. Understanding and communicating with others can also be affected, and presents some very frustrating circumstances for both the patient and the caregiver. One thing to note is that while communication is affected, the intelligence and coherence of the patient is not necessarily altered. The American Psychological Association phrases it well:

“However, it is important to make a distinction between language and intelligence. Aphasia does not affect the intelligence of the person with the disorder, but they cannot use language to communicate what they know.”

This is a fundamental piece of information that we understand and want the rest of the world to understand as well. We’ve had the opportunity to speak with Lisa Driver, the wife of a former Ernest Health patient, about their experience with aphasia rehabilitation at our facility, and it’s clear that she was well aware of this fact, too:

“He was still my Glen; he was still in there.  I knew he wasn’t gone, but he couldn’t get across the things he wanted to say.  I can’t imagine not being able to get people to understand what you’re trying (to say).”

Lisa was fully aware of the disconnect between Glen’s thoughts and his ability to communicate them. When discussing his frustration in therapy, she explained,

“He hated using the communication board, spelling things out, or using pictures. He wanted just to talk. The pictures were not what he wanted. He could not find the performed sentence or picture that matched what he had in his head.”

We use our interdisciplinary approach to care to provide a comprehensive experience that is efficient and complete. By assigning a team of specialists in different rehabilitation disciplines, we can ensure that a patient’s stay is quick and efficient, but also thoroughly attended to, so that no stones are left unturned.

Because of the frustrating disconnect between intention and actual communication, we know how important it is to be compassionate. The team here recognizes its responsibility to both the emotional and physical care of our patients.

When asked about their experiences over the four-month stay that the Drivers had with us, Lisa replied,

“The environment from day one… the administrative staff, nurses, therapists, cafeteria people, dieticians, housekeeping. They would not just come in and take out trash and mop.  They would visit with us, ask how he was doing, share about things in his life. We were there four months.  We would get excited when we would have a nurse rotate back to us.”

Aphasia is a frustrating and devastating condition that we see on a regular basis, and we feel that it deserves as much awareness as it can get. For more information, resources, and support for aphasia patients and their families, please visit the National Aphasia Association’s website.

If you or someone you know is struggling with aphasia, or if you’re simply exploring your options, please contact us. We can promise expertise, empathy, and compassion that can be heard in the testimonials of those who have worked with us previously.

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