The Often Underestimated Impact of Aphasia
Have you ever had a word, a name, or an idea that was on the tip of your tongue and you just could not get it out? Most of us experience these types of occurrences from time to time without a worry that it is a symptom of a larger issue. However, for those suffering from aphasia, this can be a common daily disruption with a damaging impact on their quality of life.
Aphasia is a language disorder resulting from an injury to the brain. Common causes of aphasia include stroke, a traumatic brain injury, or even dementia, says St. John’s Speech Therapist and Assistant Rehabilitation Director Heather Day. “It can affect expression, comprehension, reading, and writing,” she explains. She adds that aphasia often leaves sufferers unable to communicate their individual needs effectively. “They can become socially isolated from family and friends and become prone to greater health concerns due to the inability to express medical needs,” Day adds.
Despite impacting some 2 million Americans, aphasia remains a lesser known health condition. Speech therapists in hospital, rehabilitation, and outpatient settings work hard to develop treatment plans to ease the effects of aphasia. As Day explains, speech therapists can identify the type of aphasia their patient is suffering from and build an individualized plan to combat their individual case. Interventions can range from teaching the use of alternative means of communication, using questions with simple “yes” or “no” responses, use of simple sentences, or cueing patients to follow simple commands. Whatever the strategy, speech therapists treat aphasia with much more than the sufferer in mind. “We don’t just work with the individual with aphasia,” Day explains. “We also work with the family and caregivers and provide strategies on effective communication to reduce frustration and improve quality of life.”
While treating aphasia is a group effort, successful treatment plans—like the ones Heather Day and other therapists at St. John’s Rehabilitation employ—are always tailored to meet the individual needs of the impacted individual. “Our goal is to improve that person’s quality of life by providing them with some means of communication,” says Day. “Once effective communication strategies have been established, family members, friends, and caregivers can be trained to use those same strategies. That is truly when the individual is set up to be successful outside of the therapy room.”
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