At 67 years of age, Bruce Willis recently disclosed his diagnosis for aphasia. Aphasia is a communication disorder, with various manifestations of impairments. It can affect ones ability to understand language, including affecting speaking and writing, but aphasia does not impair one’s intelligence. This is an important factor to appreciate.
The main symptoms of aphasia include:
- Trouble speaking
- Struggling with finding the right term or word
- Using strange or wrong words in conversation
- Trouble understanding what other people say or following conversations
- Writing sentences that don’t make sense or trouble expressing yourself in writing
- Speaking in short sentences or phrases
- Using unrecognizable words
I once had an elderly client with aphasia, and she was discriminated against as generally being entirely mentally unwell, when the truth was her intelligence was still intact, but she struggled to make her words – which had once come to her so easily – match what she had actually intended to say. Unfortunately, it was a challenge to get some medical care providers, some of her family, and the court to understand that she knew what she wanted, but we all had to sloooooooooow down to make sure she could speak her mind, and that just because she said the wrong words sometimes, it did not mean she was not capable of participating in her own advocacy.
Consider this a gentle reminder that in this fast-paced world, it is often the best strategy to slow down and show kindness, so that true understanding can occur. Accordingly, putting together your estate plan, advance health care directive, and a power of attorney, before you need it and before there are struggles, is the best plan.