After receiving a diagnosis of the language condition aphasia, 67-year-old actor Bruce Willis, who starred in vintage action films like Die Hard, has decided to end his performing career. His ex-wife Demi Moore, daughter Rumer, and other family members shared the diagnosis on Instagram on March 30.
The family said, “Our beloved Bruce has been facing some health concerns and has just received a diagnosis of aphasia, which is hurting his cognitive ability.” “As a result of this and after careful contemplation, Bruce is leaving the profession that has meant a great deal to him.”
Here are the opinions of professionals on dealing with the illness and taking care of a loved one who does.
Aphasia can have a variety of symptoms, but it typically impairs a person’s ability to speak or understand language. The capacity to listen, read, and write can all be impacted. After a stroke or other brain injury impairs regions of the brain involved in language expression and understanding, it frequently happens suddenly. In some instances, referred to as primary progressive aphasia, the illness slowly worsens over time, and patients may experience symptoms resembling dementia.
Aphasia affects between 1 and 2 million Americans, and every year, almost 180,000 people are diagnosed with the condition, according to estimates. Although it most frequently affects older people, who are more susceptible to health problems like strokes, it can happen to anyone at any age. According to Swathi Kiran, head of the Boston University Aphasia Research Laboratory, “It can be devastating.” It is very difficult to be unable to speak a full sentence or to speak a sentence when the words sound jumbled. Additionally, it might make someone feel guilty or humiliated; as a result, Kiran adds, “they would rather choose not to talk any more than to express something and feel ashamed about it.”
That may result in social isolation, which is among the most emotionally distressing effects of aphasia. According to Kiran, patients frequently have the exact words they want to use but may not know how to say them. To cope, people with aphasia may need to make significant life changes, such as quitting their jobs and finding new ways to connect with family members. According to Brenda Rapp, a professor at the cognitive science department at Johns Hopkins University, “I think the most essential thing for families to understand is that even though they don’t seem like themselves, they still are.” It can be very challenging to negotiate those frequently drastic shifts. They require a great deal of assistance.
Aphasia recovery is possible?
Speech therapy can help patients with abrupt onset aphasia communicate better over time, even if there is no known cure. The biggest gains in aphasia patients, according to Rapp, frequently occur in the short time after the illness initially manifests, but people can still improve years afterwards. According to Rapp, “I’ve never genuinely worked with someone who, if you work together, won’t continue to grow.”
The severity of the condition and how it manifested itself are two factors that influence how effectively individuals recover. It may even totally disappear for some people, as Emilia Clarke, the Game of Thrones actress who got the illness after having a brain aneurysm, apparently did after roughly a week. However, in certain instances, individuals will have to live with their symptoms for the remainder of their lives. For instance, Kiran explains that symptoms in those with primary progressive aphasia frequently worsen over time.
Aphasia treatments that use electrical brain stimulation are among the promising clinical trials, according to Kiran. It’s important that people with aphasia and their loved ones don’t give up because research suggests that treatment can even slow down aphasia in patients with progressive disorders, says Kiran. There is, she asserts, a lengthy and difficult road to recovery.
How to assist a person who has aphasia
Patience is essential. To ensure that the person you’re speaking to understands what you’re saying, Kiran advises speaking slowly and, if necessary, repeating yourself. She advises giving them an opportunity to speak with you and encouraging children to express themselves through gestures or drawings to discover other forms of communication that might be simpler than words. Make sure the person doesn’t feel rushed because when people feel pressed for time, their aphasia unquestionably worsens, advises Kiran.
Aphasia sufferers might benefit greatly from consistent communication if they want to make progress and avoid social isolation. Every practice they receive, whether it be watching TV together or chatting over a cup of coffee, is brain therapy, according to Kiran, and it positively influences the results. “What family members must realize is that they must help the patient through the healing process and never give up,” the doctor advised.