Can Aphasia go away?
Recently, Bruce Willis was diagnosed with Aphasia. He had to take a break from his career in acting. This has sparked a fire around Aphasia. Everybody is curious to know what is it? Can aphasia go away? How is it caused? Is it temporary or permanent? And, a lot of other questions. In this blog, I am going to answer some of these questions.
Aphasia is a loss of communication skills. This involves speaking, reading, writing, and understanding. In some cases, cognition may also be affected. It is caused due to damage to the left side of the brain. This area controls language. This damage can be due to stroke, old age, or trauma to the brain. In some cases, infection and other diseases such as dementia can also lead to Aphasia. There are different types of aphasia. Global aphasia is a severe form of aphasia. Anomic aphasia is the mild form. In any case, you need speech therapy to help you communicate and recover from aphasia. In the next para, I will be answering some questions related to aphasia recovery.
Can Aphasia go away?
Firstly, I want you to understand what is recovery and how can aphasia go away? It means regaining the lost skills. It also means learning new ways to compensate for the lost skill. In the case of aphasia, other areas of the brain may take up the function of that area and may recover from damage. Recovery also means fully recovered with no sign of the issue. Recovered but a little slow and some signs of an issue. Recovered but needs help more often.
So, can a person with aphasia recover fully? The answer is Yes and No. The yes, aphasia goes away comes with a lot of terms and conditions. In the case of transient ischemic stroke, it may completely go away. It may also go away in cases of mild aphasia. If the aphasia type is severe, it may go away in some cases. However, the condition for this is intensive speech therapy. Some other conditions are:
- Age of patient – younger patients may show complete recovery in some cases. If the brain area damaged is not too large.
- Associated condition – even if the patient is young, if they have associated conditions then it may not go away completely. Associated conditions are – dementia, swallowing issues, apraxia, and cognitive difficulties.
- Treatment-related factors – the treatment should start immediately after stroke. Usually, the probability reduces if treatment is started late. The chances also reduce if there are excessive breaks. Lesser intensity reduces the chances more.
You can read more about aphasia progress on my blog of 1specialplace here
In the case of No
Aphasia will not go away and you may have to live with it. This will happen in progressive conditions like dementia and primary progressive aphasia. If speech therapy is delayed or started after a few months of aphasia, then complete recovery may be limited. As mentioned above, age, lesion, and location severity can influence this ‘No’.
How long does it take to recover?
Rehabilitation is a long process. The patient will continue showing improvement every month and week. They may continue to recover over the years. Each person has a different timeline. There is no fixed timeline. We need to have patience and follow the guidelines given by an SLP.
Can Aphasia worsen over time or is it temporary?
Aphasia will only worsen over time if it’s associated with progressive disease. In cases of, primary progressive aphasia and dementia. It may be temporary in cases of transient ischemic stroke.
How long do people live?
Life expectancy does not correlate with aphasia. If there is no associated condition like swallowing difficulties or other life-threatening complications. They are expected to live their natural course of life.
Does aphasia worsen with age?
You would see improvement in their speaking abilities. Their other abilities will also show improvement. A regression is typically not seen in aphasia with age. If there is a regression, please contact your, neurologist.
Some other queries and hope:
The aim of speech therapy with aphasia is to improve their communication skills. But more than this, to improve their quality of life. We start with functional communication. This means we target daily needs and wants. This reduces the frustration of the patient. Tailor-made plans are made depending on the patient’s needs. What difficulties they are facing and which is more appropriate for them.
The person will continue to develop and show progress over time. With the help of Neuroplasticity other areas of the brain take up that function. The remaining ability of the brain is strengthened and accessed better. They may also learn new ways to communicate and compensate. The patient may pick up his everyday routine and tasks in some cases. They can communicate and perform their duties. Of course, the efficiency will reduce, they might even be a little slow and need repetition but they can do better. I have personally seen my patient going back to her tasks such as she was ordering AC repair service over a call!
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Some things to keep in mind in a nutshell:
- There is no fixed plateau of progress. You may feel or hear that the treatment has reached a plateau. You may also hear the first 6 months show the progress then there is no progress. But this is not the case. Patients may continue to show progress over some time. The brain continues its process of neuroplasticity. You may see the fastest improvement in six months but that does not mean any improvement post that period.
- You may hear your medical professional saying they will recover completely and some saying there is no recovery at all. The answer lies in between. The important thing to remember here is that you will show improvement every day. Think long-term.
- A person with aphasia may have difficulty recalling words, names, etc. memory of situations, appointments, people and general knowledge remain relatively intact. The ability to access ideas and thoughts via language is disrupted.
- Family support is of utmost importance. They cannot progress if they do not have your support and you do not carry out the home training task given.
- Roles may change. You may become the primary breadwinner for the family. Additional responsibilities may add on. You may feel overwhelmed. Others will not understand that your spouse or family member cannot talk but can understand completely. Your loved one may be completely dependent on you for a while. Please take care of your mental health. Have help around. Meet support groups.
- A person with aphasia is losing his or her job and going through big changes. They may become depressed, angry, and resentful. They will often not cooperate for any treatment. The idea is to talk to them normally. Have patience and make them realize the way forward.
- You will also go through a myriad number of emotions. You may feel judged or you would be told to act a certain way as a caregiver. Many families feel guilty that they didn’t start intensive therapy sooner, but you can’t know everything and you can’t do everything.
Lastly to conclude, recovery takes time. It requires patience and determination. Your attitude must also show in your actions. Daily interaction and involvement are key to recovery.
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