Many film fans were shocked to hear that one of the greatest action movie stars of our lifetimes was recently diagnosed with aphasia. Famous for films such as Die Hard, Pulp Fiction, The Sixth Sense, and The Fifth Element, Bruce Willis’s family revealed that the actor was deciding to retire from acting because the condition was having a significant impact on his communication abilities.
While moviegoers will certainly miss the 67-year-old’s presence on the big screen, the announcement has put a spotlight on aphasia and has allowed many people to learn more about it.
What Is Aphasia?
Aphasia is a condition that limits a person’s ability to communicate. It affects the language-dominant side of the brain, which for most people is the left side. It manifests most obviously in the way the person speaks. However, it can also affect their ability to read, write, and understand other people’s speech.
Though Willis’s family has not disclosed what the cause of his aphasia might be, it is commonly caused by a stroke or a traumatic brain injury. In some cases, it can also be a symptom of a brain tumor or a progressive neurological condition such as dementia.
Types of Aphasia
There are three broad categories of aphasia:
- Expressive aphasia – This type of aphasia is also known as Broca’s aphasia, or non-fluent aphasia. It usually affects a person’s speech more than their comprehension skills. Thus, while a person might be able to understand what others are saying to them, they will struggle to express themselves in words or sentences.
- Receptive aphasia – This type of aphasia is also called Wernicke’s aphasia. People suffering from this form find it more difficult to understand the words, gestures, and images they are hearing and/or reading.
- Global aphasia – A person with global aphasia may have trouble producing and understanding all but a handful of words. Often, they are completely incapable of reading or writing. This type of aphasia is usually the result of damage to significant areas of the brain that control speech and comprehension.
How Common is Aphasia?
There are more than two million people in the United States who are living with aphasia. However, before Willis’s diagnosis, nearly 85 percent of people had not heard of the term “aphasia.” In fact, it is more common than better-known conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, or muscular dystrophy.
The majority of people who have aphasia are middle-aged or older, with an average age of 70. Nevertheless, it can affect people of all ages.
Is Aphasia Treatable?
Depending on the cause and the form of the aphasia, it may or may not be treatable. Yet even for people who will be unable to reverse the course of their aphasia, there are certainly means of maximizing abilities and exploring other ways of communicating.
Contact a San Jose Elder Law Attorney Today
If you have a loved one who is struggling with language comprehension or expression, speak to a San Jose elder law attorney. They will be able to help you understand what options you have to make sure that your loved one can obtain the resources they need. If you need assistance getting started, call our law firm at (800) 244-8814 to schedule a consultation.