Aphasia – A Glimpse of the Struggle to Communicate
Your friend or loved one has just suffered a stroke. You know their life and yours is about to be changed forever. The physician has told you the person you care about has aphasia. You gather from the physicians’ explanation your loved one will have difficulty communicating.
If you have a loved one or friend who has been diagnosed with aphasia, you may find yourself in a situation very similar to the one described above. Even if caring for someone with aphasia has been part of your life for a while, you still may be struggling to understand exactly what life is like for someone living with aphasia.
Aphasia Does Not Discriminate
Aphasia can affect all forms of communication. It is a misnomer that individuals living with aphasia speak in incoherent sentences. While, this is one potential symptom of the diagnosis, there are multiple ways aphasia can manifest.
In our previous blog, we explained the potential causes of this disorder. The short explanation is aphasia can result from a brain injury such as a stroke or a neurological issue like a brain tumor.
The Challenges of Living with Aphasia – You Know What You Want to Say, but They Can’t Understand
This form goes by many names. It is called fluent aphasia, receptive aphasia, or Wernicke’s aphasia. Although, the general public knows little about aphasia, this may be the form most familiar to the uninitiated.
People with this diagnosis are able to speak and are fully aware of the meaning of the words they wish to use. They may even be able to speak in grammatically correct sentences. It is likely they will know when to reply appropriately and be capable of producing fluent to speech. However, their speech is often a ‘verbal word jumble’. For a simple example, they can produce connected speech often using irrelevant words sounding like gobbledygook.
The content of their sentences is the major issue. The words that come out of their mouth may not make any sense to the listener. They may choose the wrong words, or they may use words that simply don’t exist. Conversations can be further complicated because the speaker is often unaware that the words they have said are entirely different than the ones they intended to use.
This particular type of aphasia results from brain damage in the area responsible for understanding the meaning of words and spoken language. Because of this, comprehension of spoken language may be extremely difficult.
All Language Seems Lost
In its most severe form, “global aphasia” an individual may only be able to speak a few recognizable words. With this diagnosis, comprehension of spoken language is also extremely limited. The ability to read or write is also generally lost. Those living with global aphasia find themselves trapped in a world were communicating through standard language is often not an option.
Words That Were Once There Seem to Be Gone
In some cases, an individual’s speech and vocabulary are extremely limited. The words they once knew just don’t seem to be available to them anymore. This is known as non-fluent aphasia. Individuals dealing with non-fluent aphasia are typically only able to speak in phrases shorter than four words. Their vocabularies are very small. Reading and writing will also be a challenge. Understanding someone else’s speech is typically not a problem.
With this form of aphasia, it is almost as if the words they once used to express themselves are simply not available anymore.It’s Always on the Tip of the Tongue
Some cases of aphasia leave a person able to speak and read fluently, however, it can often be struggle to find the particular word for the subject or specific item they are currently talking about. This particular set of symptoms is known as Anomic aphasia.
In other words, they are able to speak, read, and write fluently, but words relative to the conversation at hand don’t come easily. We’ve all had those moments where the word was on the tip of our tongue; we just were not able to recall it. Imagine fighting that verbal battle on a regular basis? It can be like playing a game of 20 questions.