What is aphasia? Until recently, I had never heard the term before, however after John’s, my fiance’s, diagnosis of autoimmune encephalitis in 2016, I was now hearing some new and uncommon (to me) terms. This happened to be one of them.
Aphasia is simply put, an impairment of language and affects the comprehension of speech and the ability to read or write. Aphasia is always due to injury to the brain, from stroke, injury or neurological disease. In the case of AE this will be an ABI, acquired brain injury, due to the disease itself. Like a patient who has had a stroke, the damage will cause the patient to have difficulty in speech, trouble understanding or difficulty with word recall.
It can be frustrating for the patient, as well as for their loved ones, as it can create difficulty in daily function as well as relationships. I think knowledge is so very important and will assist with the communication and relationship issue potentially.
As a caregiver or loved one, it is very important not to “talk down” to the person suffering from aphasia. Give them time to complete their thought and please do not finish their sentences for them. This will only cause more frustration for them. The inability to communicate as they once did is in no way a reflection on intelligence. It is simply the result of the injury. Learn to be a good listener and let your loved one express themselves fully. And in cases of very severe aphasia, keep it as simple as possible and let their response be a simple yes or no.
Ultimately patience is key, and you will learn a new way to communicate with one another. Once the underlying cause is treated, the main treatment for aphasia is speech therapy.
June is Aphasia awareness month. According to the National Aphasia Association, over 2 million people in the United States are affected by Aphasia yet 84.5 % of Americans state they have never heard the term aphasia.
Please be sure to help share and educate those around you, for the sake of your loved one and yourself.
International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society (IAES) is a Family/Patient centered organization that assists members from getting a diagnosis through to recovery and the many challenges experienced in their journey.
Driven by the knowledge that “Education is Power”, International Autoimmune Encephalitis Society manages an educational support group for patients diagnosed with Autoimmune Encephalitis and their loved ones, empowering them to be strong self-advocates and advocates that will lead them to best outcomes and recovery. We are the premiere organization leading in these vital roles.