June is National Aphasia Awareness Month

June 10, 2013
Aging parents with aphasia may need help communicating.

Aging parents may experience aphasia.

Aphasia is an acquired communication disorder that impairs a person’s ability to process oral and written language, but does not affect intelligence. Some aging parents may suffer from aphasia, although it can affect people of any age.

Most people have never heard of the condition, which is one reason that June is National Aphasia Awareness Month. It’s a good opportunity to make people aware of aphasia and help them learn about this disorder.

How much do you know about aphasia? Take this little quiz and see.

1. Aphasia is more common than:

A. Parkinson’s disease
B. Muscular dystrophy
C. Cerebral palsy
D. Any one of the above
E. None of the above

The answer is D. More people in America have aphasia than have Parkinson’s disease, muscular dystrophy, or cerebral palsy. An estimated 1,000,000 people have aphasia, and some 100,000 are newly diagnosed with it each year.

2. True or false: Aphasia is a form of Alzheimer’s disease.

False. Aphasia is not the same as Alzheimer’s. Individuals with aphasia have a hard time accessing thoughts and ideas through language; the thoughts and ideas are there, it’s using words as a vehicle to connect and deliver the thoughts and ideas that is the problem.

3. True or false: The most common cause of aphasia is stroke.

True. Studies indicate that between 25% and 40% of stroke survivors develop aphasia. It can also be caused by a brain injury or neurological disorder.

4. A person with aphasia may also experience weakness in his or her right leg or right arm. This is because:

A. A virus creates a neurological defect in those limbs.
B. There has been some damage to the left side of the brain.
C. Overall muscle deterioration precedes aphasia in most cases.

The answer is B. Damage to the left side of the brain, which may occur during a stroke, can impact the body’s ability to control the right side of the body.

5. True or false: A person with aphasia can never recover any of his or her access to language.

False. The chances of a complete recovery are significant if symptoms disappear within three months of a stroke; however, even in extreme cases, there can be gradual, partial recovery over a period of years.

What should you do if you speak someone with aphasia?

If you encounter a person with aphasia, there are several things that you can do to help that person better communicate with you. These include:

  • Give him or her time. Speech can often be arduous for those with aphasia, so be patient and give such individuals time to express themselves.
  • Get rid of distractions. Turn off music that might be playing in the background. Click off the TV. Close the window so that the construction work outside doesn’t intrude.
  • Find ways other than words to communicate. Body language, especially gestures, can say a great deal, as can drawing or using photos and pictures.

Aging parents and others with aphasia want to communicate and don’t want to be shut out. Doing whatever you can to make communication easier for them will enrich their lives.

Resources:

National Aphasia Association

Mayo Clinic – Aphasia

 

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Writer, Craig Butler

Craig Butler has been writing on a wide range of topics for more than fifteen years. As the National Communications Director for the Cooley's Anemia Foundation, Craig regularly writes on a range of health and medical topics. Among the many projects he has written for the Foundation is the Cooley's Anemia Storybook, a collection of original short stories for children with the blood disorder Cooley's Anemia. His freelance work has ranged from reviewing moves and CDs to creating entertainment-related stories about baldness, to creating text for comic strips. Craig looks forward to having a dialogue with you about senior care and issues of concern.

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