Aphasia impairs the expression and understanding of language as well as reading and writing. About 1 million people in the United States currently have aphasia, and nearly 180,000 Americans acquire it each year. Aphasia usually occurs suddenly, often following a stroke or head injury, but it may also develop slowly, as the result of a brain tumor or a progressive neurological disease. Aphasia may co-occur with speech disorders, such as dysarthria or apraxia of speech, which can also result from brain damage. Therefore, life after aphasia can mean living with communication difficulties (speech and language).
The inability to think of the right word to express a thought can be frustrating for aphasia patients, but there are ways to help them regain many communication skills. Read along as we discuss after care for patients living with aphasia.
Because different parts of the brain are affected in different ways following a stroke, presentations of aphasia vary widely from person to person. As a result, treatment is highly individualized and takes into consideration the type of aphasia, which is determined by the location of brain injury and symptoms. With aphasia, difficulties in the areas of communication frequently co-occur and are usually addressed with therapy.
Following an in-depth evaluation, a speech-language pathologist will determine which combination of drill-based exercises and functional activities will help improve the patients ability to understand, speak, read, and/or write. This can include:
- exercises such as script training to increase automatic speech
- sentence generation tasks to improve vocabulary and word retrieval
- reading exercises to improve reading comprehension
- role-play conversations
- performing tasks to help you regain your confidence with your professional and personal responsibilities.
In general, aphasia treatment programs require five to 10 hours per week of online therapy and five to 15 hours per week of in-person therapy. This schedule includes exercises, activities, relaxation, rest, and other recommendations important for your individualized program.
Aphasia Recovery Timeline:
How an aphasia patient recovers from a stroke depends on many factors, including the nature and extent of the neurological injury, social support, and medical treatment received immediately following the traumatic brain event.
While every person makes individualized progress, support, motivation, perseverance, and intensity of practice are factors that most significantly affect how quickly a patient can see results in their individual program. Other factors include:
- Specific goals such as returning to life in retirement or regaining skills for the workplace as an attorney.
- The extent of the neurological injury.
- The patient’s feelings or beliefs about their communication difficulties.
In general, participating in an intensive “post-aphasia diagnosis” program with speech sessions four to five times a week for one or more hours each day combined with a home exercise program will generally lead to significant improvement in at least one month. Patients can then renew the program on a monthly basis until they meet and exceed their goals.
For the loved ones of aphasia patients:
Because communication is difficult for people with aphasia, they often feel isolated and misunderstood. Even though someone with aphasia has difficulty expressing thoughts, they still have thoughts. Aphasia affects communication, not intelligence. Those with aphasia can think; they just can’t say what they think. Some ways family and friends can help people with aphasia express themselves include:
- Asking yes/no questions
- Paraphrasing periodically during conversation
- Modifying the length and complexity of conversations
- Using gestures to emphasize important points
- Establishing a topic before beginning a conversation
When caring for or spending time with people who have aphasia:
- keep distractions such as background radio or TV noise to a minimum.
- Use paper and a pen to write down key words, or draw diagrams or pictures, to help reinforce the message and support their understanding.
- If it’s not clear what they are saying, don’t pretend to understand.
Summing it Up:
Aphasia significantly affects the daily lives of survivors and their loved ones. Activities that were once performed thousands of times daily without effort, such as speaking, understanding what someone says, reading, and writing, may now require significant effort, modifications, and problem-solving. Understanding what life after a life-changing diagnosis can help alleviate some of the worry that comes with all the change. For more information about aphasia care, or to learn how you can start you or your loved ones journey after aphasia, visit our website or call us today.