Right Hemisphere Brain Damage (RHD)

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Damage to the right side of your brain can cause problems with attention, memory, problem solving, and more. Speech-language pathologists, or SLPs, can help.

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About Right Hemisphere Brain Damage

Right hemisphere brain damage, or RHD, is damage to the right side of the brain. Our brains have two sides, or hemispheres. In most people, language skills are in the left side of the brain. The right side controls attention, memory, reasoning, and problem solving. RHD may lead to problems with these important thinking skills. A person with RHD may have trouble communicating with others because of this damage. In many cases, the person with RHD is not aware of his or her problems.

Signs of RHD

A person with RHD may have trouble with:

  • Attention. He may not be able to focus on a task or what he sees or hears.
  • Perception. She may have left-side neglect. This means that she will not see objects or people on her left side. For example, she may have trouble reading words on the left side of a page. She may ignore food on the left side of her plate.
  • Reasoning and problem solving. He may not know that there is a problem, like running out of medicine. Or, he may not know how to solve the problem, like calling for a refill.
  • Memory. She may not remember information she learned before. She may have trouble learning new information.
  • Social communication. He may not be able to understand jokes or nonverbal cues. For example, he may not understand what someone means when they shrug their shoulders. He may say the wrong thing at the wrong time or interrupt others.
  • Organization. She may have trouble putting information together logically. This can cause problems when telling stories or giving directions. She may also have trouble planning. So, she might forget to respond to your calls or e-mails or lose information.
  • Insight. He may not recognize that he has any problems. Or, he may not realize that his problems cause trouble at home, school, or work.
  • Orientation. She may have problems knowing the date, time, or where she is. She may not remember information like her birthday, age, or family names.

The person may also have problems using his arms or legs. The right side of the brain controls the left side of the body. This means that his movement will be worse on the left side.

Causes of RHD

Stroke, tumors, infections, and traumatic brain injury, or TBI, can cause RHD.

Testing for RHD

A speech-language pathologist, or SLP, will test your loved one's speech, language, and thinking skills. The SLP will look at how well he talks and understands what others say. The SLP will test his attention, memory, reasoning, and problem solving.

Treatment for RHD

The SLP will work with your loved one to improve her skills. Treatment will depend on the problems she has. The SLP may need to help her become aware of these problems. The SLP may suggest tools that will help her in her daily life. For example, she may need a calendar to help her remember what she has to do each day. She may need word or picture cues to help her prepare a meal. The goal is to help her care for herself as much as possible.

Tips for Helping Someone With RHD

  • Ask questions to keep him on topic.
  • Try not to use sarcasm or abstract language. For example, do not use sayings like, "It's raining cats and dogs." A person with RHD may not understand these sayings.
  • Try to have a routine every day so your loved one knows what to expect.
  • Break down directions into small steps. Repeat directions as needed.
  • Talk to her in quiet places. Turn off the TV or other loud noises. This will help her pay attention.
  • Make sure that someone is there to watch him, if you worry about his safety.
  • Stand to her right side, and put objects to her right if she has left-side neglect.
  • Use calendars, clocks, and notepads to remind him about important information.

To find a speech-language pathologist near you, visit ProFind.

Other Resources

This list does not include every website on this topic. ASHA does not endorse the information on these sites.