Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Thank you Nightline!

With the story of Senator Gabrielle Gifford's recovery continuing, Nightline had a special earlier this week focusing on her progression with her "speech".  I am happy to say they specifically talked about "expressive aphasia" and gave details of how it affects an individual.   I have blogged before about how rare it is to hear the word "aphasia" in the media even though it is so prevalent.  I am thankful to them for the education they provided to increase the awareness of this condition.  You can see the story in full at

Her progress is amazing!  I hope it gives great hope to others in similar situations.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Don't Forget the Caregivers

In my last blog, I talked about the different emotional sides of the people who suffer from aphasia.  While this is a very relevant topic, it is just as important to discuss the emotional sides of a caregiver.  I mentioned last time the man who had severe expressive aphasia (unable to get most of his words out) but was still very happy and positive even though he really couldn't communicate.  Well, it was a different story when I met his wife.  She came in to talk with me and she was the farthest from joyful and positive.  She was completely overwhelmed.   Here she had her husband who had supported her financially, who was extremely intelligent, but now couldn't get across the most basic thought.  Her role in life had completely changed.  Everything, and I mean everything, was now her responsibility.  She was in the process of fighting insurance companies for more visits, paying all the bills, taking care of all his appointments, taking him to all his appointments (he can't drive now), taking care of his business (he was a successful business owner), and the list goes on and on.    Who could blame her for being overwhelmed!   Then there is also the personal side of it.  She had "lost" the man she used to carry on conversations with.  Who she could converse with whenever she needed his advice or just to hear how his day was.  Now all their conversations are one-sided.  He can listen and understand everything, but is unable to respond,  unable to interact with her.   So caregivers, allow yourself to mourn.  What has happened is not fair. This has probably affected you as much as your loved one.  So as easy as it is to tell yourself to "be strong", allow yourself to mourn what has happened.  Don't be hesitant to ask others for help either.  And finally, find a support group.  You need an outlet, someone to talk to that understands your pain.  Best wishes to you all.

Monday, November 7, 2011

The Emotional Side of Aphasia

As a speech therapist, I work with individuals with aphasia almost every day I walk through the hospital door.  In therapy, I work hard on helping each one improve his/her communication skills but I also am there as an outlet for the emotional side.  As you can imagine, it is very frustrating for a person to be sitting at a table in a small room for an hour of his/her life trying to "relearn" how to talk.  When just a few weeks ago, talking was a skill never thought about.  You just did it.  I have a client now that cries almost every time we meet.  She even jokes about it at times saying "Well, I'm going to go cry now" when walking back to the therapy room; or points to me saying as she's laughing, "She's the one that makes me cry!".  She is a delightful woman and even though she jokes about the crying, it is a real part of her life.

It's amazing to me to see how drastic a difference people are in their emotional way of dealing with their loss (of words).  On one hand, you have the lady I describe above who cries frequently as she can't get some of her words out (although she is able to get her message across most of the time).   Then on the other hand, I have 2 clients who seldom are able to get a single word out, but are so joyful and positive all the time.  Yes, they do get frustrated when they can't get their messages across, but just seem to blow it off and move on never missing a beat.  So positive, so happy to just be alive.  I have to say, I don't think I would be that way if I could no longer communicate effectively.  They are truly an inspiration to me.

So there is not just one emotional side of aphasia.  Each individual handles his or her loss differently.  Help the individual deal in his/her own way.