Blog: LIFE AFTER APHASIA – What next?

Date: March 30, 2022

An adverse health diagnosis can send your family reeling. Still, diseases that affect your loved one’s cognitive functions are particularly heartbreaking as you may see parts of your loved one slip away as time rolls on.

The entertainment industry and lovers of action-packed movies from the 80s and 90s have taken a severe blow with news of Bruce Willis’ aphasia diagnosis. A statement from his family says that due to the degenerative disease's debilitating effects, Bruce will be retiring from acting.

The Mayo Clinic defines aphasia as “a loss of ability to understand or express speech, caused by brain damage. It can occur suddenly after a stroke or head injury, or develop slowly from a growing brain tumor or disease.”

Aphasia severely affects a person's ability to express and understand written and spoken language.

More than 200,000 Americans are diagnosed with aphasia every year, and while treatment can help, the chance for a full recovery is not guaranteed. The primary treatment for aphasia is speech therapy.

True Care Home Care’s Andrea’s Angels in Northglenn and Greeley, Colorado, specializes in treating clients with aphasia and a series of similar traumatic brain injury conditions.

Krista Winston, head of the Independent Living Skills Program, at Andrea’s Angels says an aphasia diagnosis can send shockwaves through a family, and securing the best type of support and care is critical once the disease has been identified.

“Aphasia is such an invasive degenerative disease; it impacts the part of the brain that controls speech. The patient will have to re-learn language skills and learn other ways to communicate essentially,” she said.

Krista says aphasia is usually an indicator of other severe conditions, such as a stroke or brain tumor.

The Mayo Clinic online says a person with aphasia may:

  • Speak in short or incomplete sentences
  • Speak in sentences that don't make sense
  • Substitute one word for another or one sound for another
  • Speak unrecognizable words
  • Not understand other people's conversation
  • Write sentences that don't make sense

“For example, an aphasia patient may want to say ‘Let’s go for a walk in the park’ but say ‘Walk park today.’ It’s not that they cannot process their thoughts, but the part of the brain in charge of speech and verbalizing their thoughts are severely affected by aphasia,” said Krista.

Providing some insight into what a family with a loved one with aphasia may face, Krista says the family is integral to helping their relatives cope with this new reality. She says the disrupted speech patterns can cause embarrassment, depression, and strained relationships.

“We at Andrea’s Angels believe that while we do the heavy lifting with independent living skills the family still has to participate in the process to help the person communicate and ease into this new normal,” she said.

Andrea’s Angels, a member of the True Care Home Care network of care facilities, is located in Northglenn and Greeley, Colorado, and specializes in treating clients with traumatic brain injuries and supporting their families. Andrea’s Angels are the local leaders in ILST- Independent Living Skills Training for brain injury clients and Transitional Care Service (TCS) Independent Living Skills Training. They focus on helping clients live as independently as possible as they recover or adjust to a new normal.