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Saturday, June 13, 2009

How to help a loved one suffering from aphasia

By Renee Vecksler

For Pacific Sunday News

June 14, 2009

June is Aphasia Awareness Month. Aphasia is a loss of language skills, one of the disabilities that can result from a stroke. Language problems usually result from damage to the left temporal and parietal lobes of the brain.

People who have a stroke or brain injury are tested for aphasia by a speech therapist, who is an expert trained in speech rehabilitation. The goals of speech therapy are to find and increase the patient's strengths in order to improve understanding between the patient and family.

People with aphasia may not be able to express their thoughts or understand others. A person with aphasia may:

  • mix up the order of words in a sentence,

  • speak using only nouns and verbs,

  • use the wrong words or made up words,

  • have trouble working with numbers, such a when balancing a checkbook.

    Rehabilitation can help the patient use language again. If your loved one has aphasia, try the following tips to make communicating easier:

  • Ask questions that can be answered with a "yes" or "no."

  • Speak in simple sentences. Stick to one idea and one action.

  • Speak slowly and clearly. Give the person time to understand and to respond.

  • Try not to speak for the person unless it is necessary.

  • Praise any efforts the person makes to speak.

  • Keep the person involved and informed. Spend time reading to your loved one or talking about your day.

    Services are enhancing and growing. Plans are under way to form outpatient group language therapy sessions at Guam Memorial Hospital and the Skilled Nursing Unit. For further details, please call GMHA Rehabilitation at 647-2275 or 647-5405.

    Scientists at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke predict that Americans should be able to prevent 80 percent of all strokes. Having a better understanding of the causes of stroke has helped Americans to reduce the risks of stroke by using currently available therapies and developing new ones. Some of the most important treatable risk factors for stroke are: high blood pressure, cigarette smoking, heart disease, warning signs or history of stroke, diabetes.

    Remember to call 911 right away if you observe one or more of the signs of a "brain attack," even if the warning signs last only a few moments. Warning signs are clues that your brain is not receiving enough oxygen and may be a sign of a serious condition that won't go away without medical help. Free materials, such as the "Brain Basics" and "Hope Through Research" pamphlets, and the "Post-Stroke Rehabilitation" brochure, are available from the NINDS.

    Renee Veksler is a Guam Memorial Hospital health educator and a community partner with the Get Healthy Guam Coalition. www.gethealthyguam.org

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