After a 40-year career, 67-year-old Bruce Willis retired from acting due to health issues, including a diagnosis of aphasia.
Willis’ family released a heartfelt statement via Instagram today to update fans.
Have you ever heard of aphasia? You’re not alone.
Aphasia is a communication disorder caused by damage or changes to the language networks of the brain.
Often thought of as a difficulty in “getting the words out,” aphasia can actually impact all aspects of a person’s life.
How does aphasia affect people? A person with aphasia may have difficulty speaking, understanding others, reading, writing and using numbers.
Aphasia impacts everything from conversations, negotiating, expressing emotions, storytelling, asking questions, to writing an email.
When communication is affected, so is the ability to share information, engage in relationships, and interact meaningfully with the world.
Aphasia can alter relationships with family and friends, make it harder to get out and do things (like using public transport or shopping), affect self-identity, and, as with Willis, can affect the ability to work.
Depression and other negative mood changes are common in people with aphasia, as is a reduction in their perceived quality of life.
What causes aphasia and how common is it? Different types of aphasia can result from different brain conditions, most commonly strokes, but also brain tumors, traumatic brain injuries, and types of dementia, such as primary progressive aphasia.
There is therefore a wide range of variability in the severity and types of communication affected.
Primary progressive aphasia can occur in younger people, but is most often diagnosed between the ages of 50 and 75.
A third of people who have had a stroke will also suffer from aphasia.
Although it is more likely to affect older people, brain damage, strokes and tumors causing aphasia can also affect children, adolescents and young adults.
Based on current stroke statistics, it is estimated that at least 140,000 Australians live with aphasia.
Despite the high rates and evidence of negative impacts, awareness of aphasia in the public and health professions is low.
What else plays a role? A person’s environment has a significant impact on whether people with aphasia are enabled or disabled.
The social determinants of health influence how a person experiences, recovers from, and lives with aphasia.
Thus, people who have good access to health care, who occupy high social positions, are wealthy and have the support of a committed family may be less affected by the disease. Willis can be grateful for that.
The impact of aphasia is not only felt by the person with aphasia. The psychological and social impact, as well as the disability resulting from aphasia on the family is significant.
How is it treated? There is no cure for aphasia. But interventions such as speech therapy can make a huge difference. Although there is no “one size fits all” approach.
Speech-language pathologists are experts in communication disorders. They work within multidisciplinary health care teams at various hospital and community sites.
This includes working with medical, nursing and allied health professionals such as psychologists, occupational therapists, social workers and physiotherapists.
Interventions for people with progressive and post-stroke aphasia are tailored to the individual, their family and their community, taking into account many factors, including diagnosis and cause of aphasia, severity and type of communication difficulties, level of participation in communication-related activities, communication environment, their goals, mood and quality of life.
New and improved treatments are also being developed.
Am I aphasic? What should I pay attention to? A sudden or gradual decline and changes in communication, personality, behavior, memory, and thinking skills should be checked by a doctor.
This may be a general practitioner, neurologist or local geriatrician. A speech therapist may also be part of this process.
Be aware of the signs of stroke and aphasia associated with dementia. This may include difficulty finding the right word, mixing up words or sounds (e.g. “cat” or “gog” for “dog”), using words that don’t make sense, not being able to speak words or not be able to understand others.
If these changes are sudden or accompanied by drooping of the face or difficulty moving the arms or legs, treat them as a medical emergency and seek emergency medical attention.
Willis and his family show love and strength in dealing with aphasia “head on”. Their feelings of embracing social ties and continuing to live in Willis’ words “Live it up” give hope to other people with aphasia around the world.
We can all play our part in being more effective communication partners for people living with aphasia. (The conversation) PY PY
(This story has not been edited by the Devdiscourse team and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)