What Is Aphasia?
Aphasia is a medical condition in which speech, language comprehension, and the ability to read or write are impaired after a harmful brain injury. Strokes that may occur in elderly individuals, severe infections, brain tumors, and traumatic head injuries are the leading causes of Aphasia. Everyday communication for many Aphasia patients becomes extremely difficult since major communication “channels” within the brain become blocked and are unable to exchange information. Although many brain functions may be affected, Aphasia doesn’t cause damage to intelligence levels. Aphasia can appear suddenly in patients following an injury or develop gradually over time from degenerative neurological diseases. Different forms of Aphasia are seen that vary depending on how and where the brain was damaged.
Signs and Symptoms of Aphasia
There are unique signs and symptoms that may suggest the presence of Aphasia. Someone demonstrating nonfluent speech that can still easily comprehend incoming communications suggests Aphasia in the case of a frontal brain injury. An individual that speaks with normal rhythm and speed but uses incorrect words could have Aphasia caused by an injury to the back of the brain. The following are common issues seen in all varieties of Aphasia:
Aphasia can be a sign of serious conditions, such as brain tumors or a stroke, so symptoms should never be ignored.
Communicating with Aphasia patients is often difficult, so the process of diagnosis can be painful and challenging. In diagnosing Aphasia, speech-language pathologists test how well patients both produce and comprehend language. Through multiple tests taken to assess speech, reading, writing, physical communication gestures, and auditory comprehension skills, doctors are able to determine the best treatment options to improve the patient’s overall strength in communication. There are many varieties of Aphasia, and each requires specialized treatment.
Treating Aphasia: A Comfortable Life Is Possible
Speech and language therapy is the most common form of treatment for Aphasia. Basic language skills are restored and developed over time, along with other specialized communication methods, to help Aphasia patients compensate for specific troubles they are experiencing. Since dealing with Aphasia can make a patient feel very isolated, family members and friends often help by taking part in the treatment process. Medications that increase blood flow to the brain, promote brain tissue recovery, and restore chemicals for neurotransmission are prescribed to treat Aphasia. There is no known cure for Aphasia, but medications can help patients live a more comfortable life.
Helping a Patient Who Has Aphasia
If you have a patient with Aphasia, helping him or her to have a better quality of life by doing the following is worth the extra effort:
- Make eye contact when speaking.
- Speak at normal levels.
- Don’t speak too quickly.
- Use short and simple sentences.
- Ask simple yes or no questions.
- Use communication aids, such as drawings, physical gestures, and writing.
- Don’t condescend your patient; speak with respect and like an adult.
- Don’t be too hard on your patient; allow him or her time to speak independently.Celebrate when your patient communicates effectively.
Although communication may be a challenge, going the extra mile can help your patients suffering from Aphasia to better adjust to a normal lifestyle.
June: A Time to Spread the Word About Aphasia
During the month of June, both the American Heart Association and the American Stroke Association do their part to raise awareness about Aphasia through widespread public education efforts. The Aphasia campaign has made progress in spreading a variety of information to help communities affected by Aphasia. During June and all throughout the year, people can support the Aphasia campaign by downloading communication resources, sharing their own personal advice about living with Aphasia on the “Tips for Daily Living Library,” and by joining the Aphasia support network on the American Stroke Association’s website. Social media platforms are also effective places to spread the word about Aphasia. In the words of the American Stroke Association, it is time to “speak up about Aphasia for those who can’t.”