Aphasia is a disorder that robs the afflicted of the ability to understand language and communicate normally. It is not a mental illness, and it does not result in an impairment of intelligence. This condition can affect younger people, usually as the result of head trauma, but it is especially prevalent in older adults who have experienced one or multiple strokes. In some cases, aphasia is caused by a slowly-expanding brain tumor that causes degenerative damage.
An estimated one million people in the United States suffer from aphasia and, according to the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, there are approximately 180,000 new cases of aphasia in the U.S. each year. Since aphasia robs patients of the ability to speak, understand, write or communicate with others, it can be very difficult for both the patient and their loved ones. Aphasia can lead to feelings of depression and isolation and can negatively impact quality of life. There are three different types of aphasia: Expressive, Global and Comprehensive.
Those suffering from expressive aphasia may have difficulty communicating their internal thoughts to others and may not realize that others do not understand them. Expressive aphasia impacts the ability to understand speech. Symptoms of expressive aphasia include:
- The inability to communicate using certain words, or the inability to speak in complete sentences.
- Mixing up or confusing related words in speech.
- Speaking in sounds rather than actual words.
- Speaking in long, disconnected sentences that don’t make sense to others.
Patients with comprehensive aphasia can often understand what others are saying, but may struggle to communicate verbally themselves. Comprehensive aphasia includes symptoms such as:
Speaking in slow, halting sentences.
Mixing up common words while speaking.
Having difficulty speaking every word single in a sentence, and instead speaking in shortened phrases (e.g. “go store” instead of “go to the store”).
Demonstrating frustration at an inability to communicate fully, using appropriate sentences.
Global aphasia is characterized by a marked inability to understand and communicate with others. Because global aphasia severely affects the language centers in the brain, it results in significant issues with both verbal communication and listening comprehension. Those with global aphasia may fully lose their ability to read and write, and may only be able to understand a small number of words. Symptoms of global aphasia include:
- Speaking in unrecognizable sentences.
- Difficulty speaking or repeating the words of others.
- Needing longer than normal to understand speech.
- Incorrect use of spelling or grammar.
- The inability to understand written words.
Treatments and Tips for Aphasia
Aphasia can be temporary and may resolve after a couple of months following the onset of symptoms. However, if the symptoms of aphasia last longer than a few months following a stroke, complete recovery is very unlikely. It should be noted that some people continue to improve gradually over several years. Early intervention is generally thought to be the key to achieving a better quality of life with this disorder. Depending on the severity of the condition, language and speech therapy can help those with aphasia communicate with others. Treatments for aphasia include:
- Speech and language therapy that involves the individual as well as family members.
- Alternative methods of communication, such as computers.
- Education of relatives and caregivers about aphasia and its treatments.
- Visual action therapy which involves learning how to communicate using gestures.
- Non-invasive brain stimulation techniques in combination with speech therapy.
- Communication through the use of drawing or writing.
- Minimizing background noise while trying to communicate with someone who has aphasia.
- Continuation of normal activities while providing support to the patient.
- Encouraging independence and providing therapy for aphasia patients who are also suffering from depression or anxiety.
The Highest Quality of Aphasia Care
In some cases, aphasia can be a sign of an underlying health issue, so it’s important to contact a doctor right away if you or a loved one begin showing symptoms. At Lighthouse Senior Living, we take a well-rounded approach to the care of our residents, always considering their physical, mental and emotional well-being. Contact us today to schedule a virtual tour and learn more about our services.