June is National Aphasia Awareness Month, and, because aphasia is something the team here at Regional Hospital of Southern New Mexico encounters frequently, we feel very strongly about spreading awareness of this condition.
Aphasia is a neurological condition that is acquired. This means that something, often a stroke, inflicts damage to the brain and causes normal functions to be interrupted or altered. In the case of aphasia, the damage occurs in the parts of the brain that are responsible for language. A patient suffering from aphasia will often have a difficult time reading and writing. Understanding and communicating with others can also be affected, and presents some very frustrating circumstances for both the patient and the caregiver. One thing to note is that while communication is affected, the intelligence and coherence of the patient is not necessarily altered. The American Psychological Association phrases it well:
“However, it is important to make a distinction between language and intelligence. Aphasia does not affect the intelligence of the person with the disorder, but they cannot use language to communicate what they know.”
This is a fundamental piece of information that we understand and want the rest of the world to understand as well. We’ve had the opportunity to speak with Lisa Driver, the wife of a former Ernest Health patient, about their experience with aphasia rehabilitation at our facility, and it’s clear that she was well aware of this fact, too:
“He was still my Glen; he was still in there. I knew he wasn’t gone, but he couldn’t get across the things he wanted to say. I can’t imagine not being able to get people to understand what you’re trying (to say).”
Lisa was fully aware of the disconnect between Glen’s thoughts and his ability to communicate them. When discussing his frustration in therapy, she explained,
“He hated using the communication board, spelling things out, or using pictures. He wanted just to talk. The pictures were not what he wanted. He could not find the performed sentence or picture that matched what he had in his head.”
We use our interdisciplinary approach to care to provide a comprehensive experience that is efficient and complete. By assigning a team of specialists in different rehabilitation disciplines, we can ensure that a patient’s stay is quick and efficient, but also thoroughly attended to, so that no stones are left unturned.
Because of the frustrating disconnect between intention and actual communication, we know how important it is to be compassionate. The team here recognizes its responsibility to both the emotional and physical care of our patients.
When asked about their experiences over the four-month stay that the Drivers had with us, Lisa replied,
“The environment from day one… the administrative staff, nurses, therapists, cafeteria people, dieticians, housekeeping. They would not just come in and take out trash and mop. They would visit with us, ask how he was doing, share about things in his life. We were there four months. We would get excited when we would have a nurse rotate back to us.”
Aphasia is a frustrating and devastating condition that we see on a regular basis, and we feel that it deserves as much awareness as it can get. For more information, resources, and support for aphasia patients and their families, please visit the National Aphasia Association’s website.
If you or someone you know is struggling with aphasia, or if you’re simply exploring your options, please contact us. We can promise expertise, empathy, and compassion that can be heard in the testimonials of those who have worked with us previously.