National Aphasia Awareness Month
June is National Aphasia Awareness Month, calling attention to an impairment of speech and language that affects more than one million Americans, with more than 200,000 new cases each year. This acquired communication disorder has effects on aspects of language processing, which can cause a range of difficulties in understanding, recalling, forming, combining, or even reading and writing words.
Aphasia does not happen independently, but rather occurs as a result of injury to the brain. Yet although a person with aphasia may have diminished or altered speech capabilities, intelligence is not affected. Read on to learn more about this disorder, its effects, and how patients coping with aphasia work to manage the condition.
When Aphasia Occurs
Although some cases of aphasia stem from head injury, brain tumor, or other neurological issues that cause injury to the brain, the primary cause of aphasia is stroke. The National Aphasia Association reports that 25%-40% of patients who survive a stroke acquire aphasia. This disorder can affect any individual of any age, although it is most common among older adults.
Because of its connection to brain injury, most aphasia is sudden to appear. Patients may gain back some or even all of their lost language skills within the first few months of recovery, although in some cases, the level of impairment can be permanent. Similarly, because the language centers in the brain are in the left side, patients with aphasia can often experience weakness on their right side (e.g. leg or arm), the side of the body controlled by the damaged left half of the brain.
Aspects of Disordered Communication
Aphasia varies both in its features and in its severity. For some people, the impairment may be mild and scarcely noticeable, while others may be extremely limited in expression and/or comprehension. Among the aspects of communication that can be affected by the disorder are:
- Vocabulary. Some patients with aphasia cannot recall the word for the thing they want to say. Without the ability to use direct expression, a patient may use longer explanations, invent words, and/or become frustrated by the extra effort required.
- Speech. It may be more difficult to form and speak words, which can discourage patients from trying to communicate.
- Grammar. Some cases of aphasia also include impaired construction of sentences. Patients may omit smaller words like ‘the’ or ‘is,’ or words could be spoken in a confusing order, requiring extra effort to interpret correctly.
- Written words. In many cases, patients’ reading and/or writing capacities may mirror the same difficulties they have with spoken language.
- Sign language. Although sign language involves physical movement and visual cues rather than speech and audio input, it still depends on the same language centers of the brain, and is therefore also vulnerable to aphasia.
Recovering from aphasia is a slow process, and not all patients recover completely. Working with a speech-language pathologist (SLP) can help individuals gain back lost skills, using a combination of understanding, education, adaptation, and practice. Moreover, SLPs can collaborate with patients to find different communication strategies, allowing them to comprehend and connect to the best of their abilities. With patience, innovation, expert therapy, and increased awareness of the condition, patients with aphasia can improve quality of life and be better understood.
To determine whether you or your loved one might benefit from in-home speech-language pathology or other home care services from Residential Home Health, call (888)930-WELL (9355) to discuss your specific situation with a Home Care Specialist today, or click the link below to take our 15-question, 60-second Home Care Assessment.