Health

What it’s like to live with aphasia, Bruce Willis .’s condition


REMOVEruce Willis, 67-year-old actor and star of classic action movies like Die hard, is taking a break from her acting career after being diagnosed with aphasia, a language disorder. On March 30, his daughter Rumer, ex-wife Demi Moore, and other family members diagnostic message on Instagram.

“Our beloved Bruce has been experiencing several health issues and was recently diagnosed with aphasia, which is affecting his cognitive abilities,” the family wrote. “As a result of this and with much consideration, Bruce is leaving a career that means a lot to him.”

Here’s what experts have to say about living with the condition and caring for someone with it.

Living with aphasia

Symptoms vary, but in general, aphasia affect people’s ability to speak or understand language. Speech, reading, writing and listening may be affected. It often occurs suddenly after a stroke or other brain injury that damages the parts of the brain involved in expressing and understanding language. In other cases, called primary progressive aphasia, the condition gets worse slowly over time and the patient may develop dementia-like symptoms.

Estimates vary, but between 1 and 2 million Americans have aphasia and nearly 180,000 people develop the disorder every year. Although the disease is most common in older adults, who are at increased risk for health events such as stroke, it can affect people of all ages. “It can be very catastrophic,” said Swathi Kiran, director of the Aphasia Research Laboratory at Boston University. “Not being able to speak a full sentence, or say a sentence where words sound garbled, is extremely frustrating.” It can also make a person feel embarrassed or ashamed, “so they would rather choose not to say anything than say something and feel ashamed about it,” says Kiran.

That can lead to social isolation, one of the most painful potential emotional consequences of aphasia. Patients often know exactly what they want to say but may not have a way to say it, Kiran says. People with aphasia may need to make significant life changes to cope, such as giving up their careers and finding new ways to communicate with loved ones. “I think the most important thing for families to understand is that despite the fact that they’re not like them, they’re still the same,” said Brenda Rapp, professor in the department of cognitive sciences at Johns Hopkins University. “Trying to navigate frequent changes can be really difficult. They really need a lot of support.”

Can people recover from aphasia?

Although there is no cure, in cases of sudden onset of aphasia, speech therapy can improve a patient’s ability to communicate over time. Rapp says that in patients who suddenly develop aphasia, the greatest improvements usually occur in the period immediately after the disorder first appears, but patients can continue to improve even more. the following year. “I’ve never really worked with someone who if you work with them, they just don’t continue to improve,” says Rapp.

The extent to which a patient recovers depends on factors such as the severity of the disorder and how it developed. For some patients, it can even go away completely — as has been reported after about a week for Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke, who developed the disorder after suffering a brain aneurysm. In other cases, however, patients will continue to deal with symptoms for the rest of their lives. Kiran says symptoms in people with primary progressive aphasia often continue to get worse.

There are also promising clinical trials for aphasia, Kiran said, including treatments for electrical brain stimulation. Research shows that treatment can even slow aphasia in patients with a progressive disorder, which is why people with aphasia and their loved ones are left speechless. quit, Kiran said. “It’s been long and difficult, but there’s definitely a path to recovery,” she said.

How to support people with aphasia

Patience is paramount. Kiran recommends slowing down when talking to someone with aphasia and repeating yourself if needed to make sure the person understands what you’re saying. She suggests giving them opportunities to communicate with you and encouraging them to draw or use gestures can reveal other methods of communication that may be easier than words. “Make sure the person doesn’t feel rushed, because when they feel pressured, the aphasia will inevitably get worse,” says Kiran.

Regular communication with a person with aphasia can be essential to help them improve and move away from social isolation. “Every exercise they get into — whether it’s watching TV together, or having a cup of coffee and talking — is therapy for the brain, and it definitely impacts the results,” says Kiran. positive way”. “What family members have to understand is that they need to support the patient through the recovery process and never give up.”

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