In our new series, Diagnosis of the Month, we share more about an illness and how Paradigm Health’s continuum of care can help. This month we focus on aphasia.
Have you or a loved one recently been diagnosed with aphasia? If so, you may have noticed some signs and symptoms that were making communication complicated and sometimes impossible.
What is aphasia?
- Aphasia is an impairment of language, affecting the production or comprehension of speech and the ability to read or write. Aphasia is always due to injury to the brain-most commonly from a stroke, particularly in older individuals. But brain injuries resulting in aphasia may also arise from head trauma, from brain tumors, or from infections.
Does aphasia affect all patients the same?
- Aphasia can be so severe as to make communication with the patient almost impossible, or it can be very mild. It may affect mainly a single aspect of language use, such as the ability to retrieve the names of objects, or the ability to put words together into sentences, or the ability to read. More commonly, however, multiple aspects of communication are impaired, while some channels remain accessible for a limited exchange of information.
How can I find out more information about aphasia?
- The National Aphasia Association is a fantastic resource for patients and for caregivers and can help you gather more information.
Who do I talk to assess treatment?
- It is the job of the professional to determine the amount of function available in each of the channels for the comprehension of language, and to assess the possibility that treatment might enhance the use of the channels that are available. There are many different types of aphasia including Global, Broca’s, Wernicke’s, Primary Progressive, Anomic, and Mixed Non-fluent aphasia.
How can Paradigm Health help?
No matter the stage of dementia you or a loved one may be in, gathering education and finding clinically trained partners to help navigate the everchanging communication challenges that are a part of the disease is critical. A valuable part of the palliative care caregiving team is a speech therapist.
As Alzheimer’s disease and other related dementias destroy brain cells, a significant symptom, known as “aphasia,” is losing the ability to speak and to understand speech which is one of the first symptoms identified in people with dementia. Memory loss is usually the most common symptom of dementia but in some cases, patients lose their ability to speak first. Aphasia can range from simply forgetting a word to the complete loss of the ability to speak. Being proactive and seeking help is the first step in maintaining speech memory and recall.
“A speech therapist or speech language pathologist (SLP) is responsible for meeting with the patient diagnosed with dementia to assess and stage of the disease from a communication standpoint,” shares Paradigm Health speech therapist Matt Jones. “We also provide education to the patient, their family and any extended caregivers so that they have the information and the tools to maximize communication.”
Some of the roles a SLP may perform include:
- Providing prevention information to individuals and groups known to be at risk for dementia as well as to individuals working with those at risk.
- Counseling persons with dementia and their families regarding communication-related issues and providing information about the nature of dementia and its course.
- Developing treatment plans; providing treatment to maintain cognitive-communication and functional abilities at the highest level throughout the course of the underlying disease; and documenting treatment outcomes.
If you are wondering what difference speech therapy can make for you or your loved one, the benefits of speech therapy can help make a difference in providing restorative therapy that focuses on restoring or improving impaired functions such as retraining the memory on how to complete a budget, manage medications or improve overall problem-solving challenges.
“Other benefits of speech therapy include helping a patient learn and put into practice compensatory strategies that focus on teaching the individual specific methods and skills to compensate for or overcome deficits that are not amenable to retraining,” says Jones. “Those might include such tactics as teaching the patient to utilize external aids such as visual reminders, daily planners, memory books and calendars.”