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 their problems.

Signs of Right Hemisphere Brain Damage

A person with RHD may have trouble with:

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

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

Causes of Right Hemisphere Brain Damage

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

Testing for Right Hemisphere Brain Damage

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

Treatment for Right Hemisphere Brain Damage

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

Tips for Helping Someone With RHD

  • Ask questions to keep them 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 them in quiet places. Turn off the TV or other loud noises. This will help them pay attention.
  • Make sure that someone is there to watch them, if you worry about their safety.
  • Stand to their right side, and put objects to their right if they has left-side neglect.
  • Use calendars, clocks, and notepads to remind them 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.

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