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what is aphasia

What is Aphasia and What Causes this Condition?

Aphasia is one of the most common language disorders in the United States, affecting over 2 million people. 

Seniors who suffer from this condition may have difficulty speaking, comprehending, and writing. 

While it is common for a healthy brain to experience cognitive decline, there is a noticeable difference between seniors who can’t recall a word and seniors who cannot put together a sentence. 

If your senior loved one has a medical condition that has led to aphasia, it may be challenging to care for them. 

When a loved one cannot express their needs, it can become frustrating and overwhelming for both parties. 

Memory care communities have specially trained staff to care for seniors with aphasia and other communication and memory diseases. 

Learn more about aphasia, what causes it, its symptoms, and how specialized care can help a senior maintain their quality of life.  

What is aphasia, and what causes it?

Aphasia is a condition that makes it challenging and sometimes impossible for a senior to communicate and understand language. 

Damage to areas in the brain that are specific to language is typically caused by: 

  • Strokes
  • Head injuries
  • Brain tumors
  • Infections
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Dementia 
  • Bell’s palsy 
  • Transient ischemic attacks
  • Seizure disorders
  • Other neurological illnesses

Depending on the cause of aphasia, it may come on suddenly, or gradually. 

For instance, the most common cause of aphasia is a stroke, and when this happens, a senior will experience aphasia rapidly. The same can be said for head injuries. Symptoms will come on strong and quickly. 

Seniors with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or a slow-growing brain tumor will experience symptoms slowly. 

What are the 3 types of aphasia? 

A senior may suffer from one or both types of aphasia, depending on what caused their aphasia, and the severity of the damage. 

Broca’s aphasia/motor aphasia

Broca’s area is the brain region responsible for creating speech. When this area is damaged, a senior may lose their ability to speak (motor skills), but not their ability to understand language. 

While a senior may understand what is being said to them, they will have difficulty expressing themselves.

Wernicke’s aphasia

Seniors with Wernicke’s aphasia have damage in their temporal lobe. The damage here makes it impossible for them to understand language. 

A person with Wernicke’s aphasia may not realize that others cannot understand them, even though they cannot even understand themselves. 

It can be emotionally taxing to care for a senior with this condition. When they notice their language is impaired and others cannot understand them, they may become angry, paranoid, and depressed. 

Global aphasia

When brain damage is so widespread that it involves both Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas, a senior will not be able to understand language or speak at all. 

If a senior still has their motor skills, it may be possible for them to communicate through written language. 

What are the most common symptoms of aphasia?

If you notice changes in your senior loved one’s communication skills, you may be concerned that they are developing a memory disease or have another health condition. 

Technically, aphasia is a symptom of another condition and not its own condition. 

A senior with aphasia may: 

  • Speak in short sentences
  • Speak in sentences that don’t make sense
  • Speak unrecognizable words
  • Not understand other people’s speech
  • Have trouble remembering words 
  • Have trouble speaking clearly 
  • Have difficulties writing
  • Have difficulties reading
  • Have difficulties with numbers
  • Have difficulties dealing with money 
  • Have trouble telling the time

How do aphasia and dysphasia differ?

These terms are often used interchangeably, as they are both language-associated conditions that affect the left side of the brain. 

Aphasia is the most commonly used term, but there is a slight difference, medically speaking. 

Aphasia is the complete loss of language, whereas dysphasia refers to a partial loss of language.

To understand which condition your senior loved one has, you can reach out to their doctor. Knowing whether a loved one has partial or total loss will make a difference in how you communicate with them and the type of care they need.

How do these conditions relate to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia?

Seniors with aphasia may experience some of the same symptoms as those with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. 

Even those without a memory disease will have a cognitive decline and benefit from the same types of therapy as a senior with memory disease. 

This is one reason why an enhanced assisted living or memory care community is capable of caring for seniors with aphasia and dysphasia.

Like a memory disease resident, a senior with aphasia may require comprehensive physical, speech, and occupational therapies, medication, and around-the-clock care.

Specialized care at Kensington Place Redwood City 

At Kensington Place Redwood City, our professional memory care team understands the types of care and comfort your senior loved one needs. 

As your loved one’s needs change, we will accommodate those changes and make sure your loved one remains comfortable, safe, and understood.

We have made it Our Promise to love and care for your family as we do our own by ensuring your loved one’s health, well-being, and quality of life. 

Our memory care communities provide our residents with day and night high acuity care, on-site rehabilitation and wellness services, on-site nurses, a physician’s office, life enrichment activities, medication administration, diabetes injections, and professional dining services with special diet accommodations. 

Contact us to learn more about our cozy and safe homes, amenities, caregiver resources, and events.

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