Pheing & Taedg
July 26, 2016 § 6 Comments
Last night, before turning out the light in the dining room I saw this note on my dear husband’s place mat, written by his hand. This is something we always used to do. I took a snapshot trying to figure out what it could possibly mean, written in code? Later the next day the note was not on the table. I asked him about it. C’mon, tell me I coaxed him, my curiosity getting in the way. Seeing the serious look on his face, I put my arm around him.
“It didn’t come out the way I wanted” he said and could not remember what it was that he was trying to write. Not even a guess or a clue. I think he’s embarrassed and very frustrated by the loss of the ability to write even simple words. Two Columbia University Graduate degrees, one in Philosophy, and it’s all gone. I grieve for his losses. I wait a few days before I write this, sad is way too small a word.
Four months ago, he would go upstairs to shower before bedtime and give himself an extra half hour to read a few pages by his favorite authors. That is in the past now. And he would enjoy telling me bits and pieces of the fictional tales making small conversation in the car or during dinner. No more reading, even street signs are challenging, familiar words lose their pronunciation when he says them aloud, street names where he’s lived for more than twenty years.
It’s called Aphasia and is a combination of a speech and language disorder caused by damage to the brain. It does not affect intelligence, dementia destroys those pathways. From the Ancient Greek, it means “speechlessness.”
Impairment is in one (or several) of the four communication modalities. While learning about this I kept thinking that we take communication for granted. Here they are: 1) auditory comprehension, 2) verbal expression, 3) reading and writing and 4) functional communication.
An individual’s language is learned using thought processes socially shared. In normal aging, there are difficulties processing language resulting in slowing of verbal comprehension, reading abilities and more likely word finding difficulties. With some aphasias, functionality within daily life remains intact.
My husband’s symptoms include all modalities that includes the inability to form words and name objects, inability to pronounce and speak spontaneously, incomplete sentences, inability to read or write, limited verbal output, and the inability to follow or understand simple requests.
Someone asked him how he felt about having these difficulties and was he angry or frustrated. “Accepting” he said. Not having any critical, executive thought processes left can be a blessing. I make the comparison – before and after dementia … and I am temporarily speechless.