A Letter on Aphasia from a Concerned Son
It's been 2 weeks since Mom's stroke and things at
home have calmed down considerably. I wanted to follow-up on my
last phone call with more details about Mom's condition. On
Monday, I was invited to attend a care planning meeting at the
hospital and meet the entire team of professionals who are
treating mom. First, the cardiologist explained that Mom's
stable now, but paralyzed on her right side. He said she still
needs nursing care and medication.
Then I met the speech-language pathologist and listened while
she explained the results of Mom's evaluation. It seems that
Mom has something called Broca's aphasia, due to the brain
damage caused by the stroke. This means that Mom has trouble
understanding long or complex sentences, but that she is able to
comprehend most directions given to her and to follow simple
Her ability to express herself is more affected. The
speech-language pathologist explained that Mom knows what she
wants to say, but is having problems recalling and organizing
language in order to make her needs known. At times she is able
to say things automatically like greetings, but won't be able
to repeat it again a minute later! Besides all this, her speech
is not too clear and she sometimes has trouble swallowing.
Let me give you an example by telling you what happened when I
visited her the other day. She was all smiles when she saw me and
easily said "Hi, son." I told her, jokingly, that she
didn't have to be so formal - just call me "Joe".
Well, although she seemed to understand what I said, she
couldn't say my name. Later on, she repeated
"Want...lady...you" over and over while she pointed to
the other bed in her room. It was like playing a guessing game
until I finally realized she wanted me to meet her new
I decided that I really needed help learning to communicate
with Mom so I called the speech-language pathologist who
suggested that I observe one of mom's therapy sessions, which
I did today. At first, I thought they were just having a
conversation about hospital routines, meals and therapy
schedules. Mom didn't seem to be struggling to express
herself as she did when I visited. The speech-language
pathologist explained her method of cueing Mom by giving her the
first sound of a word, or the beginning of a sentence to be
completed. And believe me, she knows what she's talking about
because it made communication with Mom much easier!
The speech-language pathologist also told me that Mom's
prognosis is good, but that she may never speak as well as she
did before the stroke. Continued therapy is recommended, either
as an outpatient at the hospital, or through other community
resources, including home care.
Right now, Joanne and I are considering having her therapy
services continued at home so that the speech-language
pathologist can take advantage of our normal household routines
to make treatment more meaningful for Mom.
We are really hoping that, with the help of physical and
occupational therapy professionals also working in our home, Mom
will be able to walk and take care of her daily needs. Hopefully,
they can help restore her functioning to the point that she will
be able to cook and bake again. We all miss those chocolate chip
cookies, especially the kids!
The speech-language pathologist also felt that the family
support group at the hospital would help us learn more about
aphasia and how to handle communication situations with Mom at
home. So, we're going to the meeting next month, where the
guest speaker will be an accountant who had a stroke 18 months
ago. Sounds interesting!
It's time to close for now. I'll drop you a line soon
to keep you posted on Mom's progress. My love to Ed Sr. and