WHAT APHASIA IS:
PHYSICAL PROBLEMS

Imagine waking up one morning and as you begin to speak, the world seems to have turned topsy-turvy. People can't understand what you are saying. You attempt to say one word, and another one comes out Perhaps you can't talk at all no matter how hard you try. When someone speaks to you it may sound like nonsense.

The man or woman with the condition called aphasia may begin by having an experience such as this one. Suddenly he lives in a world of "scrambled" communication. If there is someone in your family with aphasia, you will discover that the better you know his difficulties, the more chance you have of helping him in his recovery Aphasia (a-fa-zhia) is the technical name given for interference with the comprehension and use of language - a condition which can follow injury to the brain. Most cases of aphasia occur after the stroke, although many people with strokes do not become aphasic. Aphasia can also develop from other conditions where the brain has been injured.

The first step in understanding the aphasic person is to recognize that he must be treated not as someone with a single problem, but with a whole series of them. Your awareness of the extent of his difficulties will aid you in helping him. Aphasic patients who later recovered say that one of their most distressing experiences was the failure of those around them to realize what a tremendous handicap they had.

Every aphasic patient is different from the other, and therefore, must be treated as an individual with his own set of problems. At the same time, all patients have certain difficulties in common - in communication and in the very act of adjusting to life.

Physical problems may vary, of course, among aphasic patients, but those described here are the usual ones. Even if the person in your family should have a severe physical disability, there is good reason for you to feel hopeful. Remarkable advances have been made in the last ten years in rehabilitating those with conditions formerly labeled "hopeless."

The most frequent physical problem accompanying aphasia is weakness or paralysis of the right side of the body. Usually only the leg and even more the arm are affected but sometimes also a portion of the face. This sort of impairment usually follows a stroke or other kind of brain injury.

In time, use of both the arm and leg may be regained, but weakness lingers in the arm more than the leg. Sometimes there is permanent disability in the arm or leg, or both. The person may have trouble walking or it may be difficult for him to feed or dress himself, but he can improve with practice.

Aphasic patients may have severe headaches, or they may be subject to convulsions (seizures). Some have trouble with their vision as a result of their brain injury. Usually this visual impairment takes the form of inability to see objects off to the right or to the left, rather then total loss of vision in one eye.

BEHAVIORAL PROBLEMS

Persons with aphasia may appear lethargic or be withdrawn and unwilling to move about or look after themselves. Almost all of them, understandably are self-centered. Their attention is apt to wander or be of limited span even for what seems to appeal to them. Many show the inability to think in terms of the future. They tend to confine their attention to matters right at hand, such as their food and medicine.

Just remember - he acts the way he does, not always because he Wants to, but because his disability makes him do so.

THE FIRST STEPS TO RECOVERY

The home can be an ideal setting for recovery from aphasia. It may supply much that a hospital lacks in warmth, understanding, familiar surroundings, a helpful family. All these give firm support to an aphasic person as he struggles to get well.

The task of recovery is a difficult one. Those helping an aphasic individual need all the aid and guidance they can get, but it is not an impossible task. Many people with aphasia have learned to talk, read, and write again with the assistance of families, friends, doctors and therapists.

In general, the best way the family can help its aphasic member is to offer stimulating and understanding companionship. Experience indicates that this kind of companionship is vital to recovery. If patients are continually left by themselves, their progress in language falters and may stop altogether. Then they are apt to withdraw further behind their fences and grow even more anxious and depressed.

In the long run, It is the individual's own motivation and drive to get well that brings about his recovery. The stimulation of an understanding companionship is the means which arouses him to make an effort. A family does not require professional knowledge about aphasia to provide this, but thoughtful planning is necessary.

Seek Good Professional Assistance.

Look at your own feelings.

Spend time when patient is most responsive.

Accept him as he is at the moment.

Use every opportunity to increase his independence.

Include him in family affairs.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON APHASIA AND OTHER INFORMATION PLEASE CONTACT THE STROKE RECOVERY ASSOCIATION - HAMILTON-WENTWORTH.

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