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My mother’s experience with aphasia

According to a statement released by his family last week, actor Bruce Willis has been diagnosed with aphasia and is stepping away from his acting career. Aphasia can occur when the part of the brain that controls speech is damaged. Willis’ family has not revealed the cause of his condition, but aphasia is often associated with strokes, Alzheimer’s disease or other types of dementia.

We hope none of this holds true for Willis and we wish him and his family well as they navigate their new normal life.

How is aphasia related to Alzheimer’s disease?

If you or a loved one has difficulty finding the right words and phrases to communicate, this may indicate aphasia. In the middle to late stages of Alzheimer’s disease, my mother developed the condition. She had regular checkups at the memory clinic and was fortunate to sign up for a clinical trial.

At one of her diagnostic visits, the doctor pointed to his watch and asked my mother what it was and what its purpose was. Her response was close, but not quite right. She knew it was meant to tell time, but she referred to his watch as a watch. This is an example of aphasia.

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Fortunately, she never completely lost the ability to communicate with her family, but often had the word on the tip of her tongue and couldn’t get it past her lips.

Aphasia develops gradually in people with Alzheimer’s disease, while stroke patients often develop it immediately. However, it does not appear the same for every dementia patient. For some, written communication is strenuous, as they lose the ability to write words and sentences, and in many cases, are unable to read written words. When they write, the wrong words land on the paper.

The inability to recognize people and things is also a symptom of aphasia. Maybe that’s why my mother found it difficult to recognize the people in the photos. Face to face, she knew her children and grandchildren, but often couldn’t capture them in photos. She would point to the individual and ask, “Who is this?” I mistakenly thought that her eyesight prevented her from distinguishing from one person to another.

During the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease, she did not recognize herself in the mirror and asked, “Who is this old woman?” I suppose she recognized me in meditation because she didn’t ask. (Looking back, I was probably the “old woman” because, in my mom’s mind, she was in her forties.) Standing in front of the mirror, I was going to make her touch her nose and the top of her head. When the reflection matches her movements, she would smile or laugh and say, “Oh, that’s me.”

Types of aphasia

Non-verbal aphasia occurs when a person has difficulty finding the right words. This can cause a problem when communicating events and places as well. Perhaps they confuse weddings with funerals, for example.

Expressive aphasia is when a person knows what they want to say. It’s in their minds, but they can’t get it out. They may have difficulty expressing themselves in writing or speaking. (I think this is the kind my mother offered.)

Universal aphasia is a person’s inability to communicate. They cannot read or write words and cannot pronounce words or understand speech.

Receptive aphasia is the inability of the affected person to understand the words they hear or read. They can hear speech and read words and sentences, but they cannot understand them.

Don’t ignore the signs

Aphasia is a signal that something negative is happening in the brain. Now, everyone loses a word or two and can’t come up with the correct phrase now and then, but ask attention to yourself or your loved ones if the aphasia suddenly appears. It may be a sign of a stroke.

If the aphasia develops gradually and becomes more noticeable, seek a diagnosis. It could be a sign of dementia. Early diagnosis is crucial, especially now that treatment is available for people in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Early diagnosis can also help prevent the disease so you can live a better life with dementia.

Six days before my mother died, she tried to tell me something but she kept forgetting. She called me into the room several times to tell me something, but she couldn’t find the words. After a few days, I struggled to get the right words across to my sister, and I feel like it might have been what she tried to get across to me a few days ago.

“I’m getting ready to go on a long trip,” she said.

We think she was saying goodbye to us and that she was on her way home to heaven. We are grateful that she was able to convey her message, even if that wasn’t quite what she was trying to say; We got it.


NB: Alzheimer’s news today It is a news and information site about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not opinions Alzheimer’s news today Or its parent company, BioNews, aims to spark discussion about issues related to Alzheimer’s disease.

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