WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) — Many people heard of aphasia for the first time this week, after actor Bruce Willis announced his diagnosis. It’s a disorder that makes it difficult to express or comprehend language.
“I’d say the hardest part is watching him get frustrated that he’s not understood or he’s not understanding us,” Angela Ogden said.
Heather Roddy and Angela Ogden’s dad was diagnosed with aphasia nearly six years ago. It started off slow, but progressed over the years.
“We can’t have a conversation with him,” Roddy said. “He knows in his brain what he’s trying to say and sometimes he can point at things to help understand and so we play a lot of guessing games. It’s like playing charades every day.”
According to the National Aphasia Association, more than 2-million Americans deal with the disorder. Although, there are varying levels.
“Mild word-finding deficits, can’t get the right word at the right time, you’re struggling to get that a little bit. All the way to cannot understand or speak anything,” Angela Parcaro-Tucker, lead speech-language pathologist at Ascension Via Christi, said.
Parcaro-Tucker says in many cases there are ways to help.
“When it’s something that is acute or abrupt onset where there’s been something a change in the brain like I said that’s a more positive outcome generally speaking. That therapy is usually readily available,” she said.
As for Roddy and Ogden’s dad, that’s not the case.
“There’s nothing they can do about it. It’s not treatable. Speech therapy is not going to help,” Roddy explained.
Their best advice for families dealing with loved ones who have aphasia is simple.
“Patience is the key,” Roddy said. “Don’t get frustrated, just be patient with them,” Ogden added in.
If you are noticing challenges responding to people, you’re encouraged to talk with your doctor.