Aphasia affects around 180,000 people a year. Most recently, the disorder gained recognition when actor Bruce Willis announced that he was diagnosed with the condition.
Recovery from aphasia requires time, support, and resources.
While aphasia can occur at any age, seniors have a higher risk of developing this language impairment and brain condition.
There is no sure way to prevent aphasia, but there are ways to control risk factors, such as strokes, and brain injuries, which are the leading causes of aphasia.
While communicating with a loved one may be challenging, it’s not impossible. With the experienced rehabilitation therapists at The Kensington White Plains and a team trained in high acuity care, your loved one can recover and experience a higher quality of life.
Learn more about aphasia, recovery from aphasia, how to communicate with a loved one with aphasia, and where to find on-site rehabilitation.
What is aphasia?
Aphasia is a language condition that makes communicating difficult for those affected. For instance, a senior may struggle to express or understand spoken or written language.
When there is damage to the left side of the brain, there is a good chance a senior may suffer from aphasia.
People with aphasia may repeat themselves, use the wrong words, use made-up words, have difficulty completing sentences, and switch sounds in words.
Unlike some brain conditions, aphasia does not affect a senior’s intelligence, just their ability to communicate effectively.
Often, those with aphasia hear how their words come out and notice their struggles, which can cause them to become angry, depressed, and want to isolate themselves.
The causes and symptoms of aphasia
When a senior has aphasia, the symptoms will be evident. The symptoms will come on suddenly when a stroke or brain injury is the cause. However, the symptoms can be more gradual if a tumor or disease is the cause.
Causes of aphasia
- Head injury
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Brain tumor
- Cerebral hypoxia
- Inflammation of the brain
- Radiation or chemotherapy
- Toxins and poisons
Symptoms of aphasia
- Trouble understanding speech and written language
- Repetitive language
- Talking in short one-worded sentences
- Inability to find the right word
- Using made-up words
- Put made-up and real words together into sentences
- Trouble understanding jokes
- Difficulties spelling
- Trouble reading
- Switching sounds in words
How is aphasia diagnosed?
While it may be obvious that your senior loved one has aphasia, they will still need a doctor to diagnose and determine the cause.
Caregivers and family members are typically the first to notice symptoms in a loved one. Noticeable symptoms will lead to a visit to the physician’s office, where a physician will assess a senior’s ability to understand and produce language.
If a physician suspects aphasia, they will refer the senior to a speech-language pathologist for further examination and treatment recommendations.
Suppose your loved one experienced a stroke or head injury. In that case, they may need a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or computed tomography (CT) scan to identify the precise location the brain was damaged.
What is recovery from aphasia like for my loved one?
Some seniors can recover from aphasia, though how quickly and well they will recover depends on the cause and what type of damage was done to the brain.
Speech-language therapy is one of the most effective methods used during recovery.
Seniors also show improvements when they have opportunities to participate in life-enrichment activities.
Residents regain their confidence and social self-esteem in our communities by engaging in music therapy, creative arts, garden club, exercises like tai chi and yoga, and enjoying movie nights with friends.
For seniors with major brain damage, and progressive diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia, a full recovery may not be possible. Still, with rehabilitation, they can learn how to communicate in new ways.
How to communicate with a loved one with aphasia
Whether you’re a caregiver or plan to visit your senior loved one in an assisted living or memory care community, you should participate in therapy sessions with them.
Family members must learn new ways to communicate with their loved one and understand their condition.
It can be helpful to simplify language by using short sentences, repeating words to clarify meaning, speaking slowly, being patient, avoiding correcting your loved one’s speech, and allowing them plenty of time to talk.
It will be easiest to communicate if you minimize distractions, such as loud noises, and get your loved one’s attention before you start speaking.
During your conversation, you should keep eye contact and watch your loved one’s body language and gestures. These can give clues to what they’re trying to say when their words fail them.
If you feel that your senior loved one is having difficulty understanding you, try using nonverbal, written, or visual communication. Sometimes drawings, gestures, pointing, writing, and facial expressions can be better understood.
There are even apps available for smartphones and tablets specifically designed to help people with aphasia.
Kensington White Plains – Your partners in recovery and care
It can be frightening when a loved one experiences a sudden medical condition.
At The Kensington White Plains, our team is here to offer support, resources, and high acuity care, meaning we’re prepared to care for your loved one at every stage of their condition.
To ease your and your loved one’s minds, we stand by Our Promise to love and care for your family as we do our own.
Your loved one can truly age in place with our services, such as:
- On-site rehabilitation services
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Speech-language pathology
- On-site physicians office
- Around-the-clock nurses
- Wellness programs
- Life-enrichment activities
- Exquisite dining services
- Secure grounds
- Expertise in special services
- Cardiac care
- Pain management
- Memory enhancement
- Parkinson’s disease
- Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis
- Multiple sclerosis