News/Blog

What Aphasia Looks Like, and What to do About it

Last week we learned about a patient who had Aphasia, and what it was like for him and his family. Each patient is different when it comes to rehabilitation, but every patient can benefit from a family member that is aware of their condition. Aphasia Awareness Month is the perfect time to learn more about this condition. When a patient experiences damage to the parts of the brain where language occurs, we call this “aphasia.” Aphasia can cause a person to lose their abilities to process language, be it in expression or comprehension.  Most often, the left side of the brain is the one responsible for aphasia and causes the affected person to encounter difficulties with speech and comprehension.

Many of our aphasia patients are stroke survivors. Although things like brain tumors and traumatic brain injury can also be responsible, stroke is most-often the culprit for the language struggles that we help our patients work through.

Common symptoms of aphasia:

Patients with aphasia often display issues with both comprehension and expression.

When most of the problems lie in the comprehension or reception of language, this is often classified as “Wernicke’s Aphasia.” While a sufferer can sometimes pick up on the melody or cadence of a sentence (determining if it’s a command or question, for example), they might have problems understanding the specific words that are being said. Since a person’s vocabulary is housed in the left side of the brain, understanding of words can sometimes be affected, as well as the concept of stringing words together to form a full thought.

When the issues mostly lie in the survivor’s ability to express themselves, it usually falls under the category of “Broca’s Aphasia.” In this case, the symptoms are more outwardly visible, as the patient struggles greatly with speech and the construction of sentences. Aphasia, in this case, can present itself in a variety of ways. Sometimes a patient will create something that sounds like a sentence, but is comprised of gibberish-like words. Other times, they might be able to get out enough words to get an idea across, but leave out small connecting words like “the” or “and.” When all areas of language are hindered, it is referred to as “global aphasia.”

Support

The range of symptoms that can occur during aphasia is wide and varied, but the factor that stays constant is a need of support. Through the support of family members, friends, and rehabilitative therapists, a person suffering from aphasia has a better chance of getting back on the road to understanding and function.

What can you do?

The word “aphasia” can be intimidating. While it is definitely a serious condition, it is one that can be worked with and, to some degrees, overcome.

Recognize… that aphasia has not affected the patient’s intelligence. It has altered their ability to communicate and understand language, but their personality, memories, and knowledge remains. Remembering that the same person you’ve always known resides behind this communication disorder can be grounding and encouraging.

Take the time… to learn your suffering family member’s struggles and specific communicative needs. After a period of routine, you’ll be able to discern how to understand and communicate with your loved one, bringing a sense of comfort and progress to the both of you.

Create… an environment that is conducive to focus and treatment. When a person has difficulty understanding the simplest of words, even the simplest of distractions can be a deterrent to progress. Eliminate extra sounds and excessive visual stimulations, so that your loved one can focus on the task at hand. Simplifying your questions to yes/no and slowing down your rate of speech can encourage success.

Explore… different methods of therapy. Sometimes drawing, writing, and even the encouragement of socialization can stimulate progress in a stroke survivor’s language. It is important to keep communication with your loved one’s therapist open so that you can learn about techniques that may be specifically helpful to your situation.

We understand that recovery is a process that can take its toll on not only the patient but their support systems as well. To alleviate some of the pressure, we encourage you to seek help from rehabilitative professionals, Speech-language pathologists being an ideal option, to make this process as successful as possible.

 

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Aphasia Awareness Month

June is National Aphasia Awareness Month, and, because aphasia is something the team here at Rehabilitation Hospital of Northwest Ohio encounters frequently, we feel very strongly about spreading awareness of this condition.

Aphasia is a neurological condition that is acquired. This means that something, often a stroke, inflicts damage to the brain and causes normal functions to be interrupted or altered. In the case of aphasia, the damage occurs in the parts of the brain that are responsible for language. A patient suffering from aphasia will often have a difficult time reading and writing. Understanding and communicating with others can also be affected, and presents some very frustrating circumstances for both the patient and the caregiver. One thing to note is that while communication is affected, the intelligence and coherence of the patient is not necessarily altered. The American Psychological Association phrases it well:

“However, it is important to make a distinction between language and intelligence. Aphasia does not affect the intelligence of the person with the disorder, but they cannot use language to communicate what they know.”

This is a fundamental piece of information that we understand and want the rest of the world to understand as well. We’ve had the opportunity to speak with Lisa Driver, the wife of a former Ernest Health patient, about their experience with aphasia rehabilitation at our facility, and it’s clear that she was well aware of this fact, too:

“He was still my Glen; he was still in there.  I knew he wasn’t gone, but he couldn’t get across the things he wanted to say.  I can’t imagine not being able to get people to understand what you’re trying (to say).”

Lisa was fully aware of the disconnect between Glen’s thoughts and his ability to communicate them. When discussing his frustration in therapy, she explained,

“He hated using the communication board, spelling things out, or using pictures. He wanted just to talk. The pictures were not what he wanted. He could not find the performed sentence or picture that matched what he had in his head.”

We use our interdisciplinary approach to care to provide a comprehensive experience that is efficient and complete. By assigning a team of specialists in different rehabilitation disciplines, we can ensure that a patient’s stay is quick and efficient, but also thoroughly attended to, so that no stones are left unturned.

Because of the frustrating disconnect between intention and actual communication, we know how important it is to be compassionate. The team here recognizes its responsibility to both the emotional and physical care of our patients.

When asked about their experiences over the four-month stay that the Drivers had with us, Lisa replied,

“The environment from day one… the administrative staff, nurses, therapists, cafeteria people, dieticians, housekeeping. They would not just come in and take out trash and mop.  They would visit with us, ask how he was doing, share about things in his life. We were there four months.  We would get excited when we would have a nurse rotate back to us.”

Aphasia is a frustrating and devastating condition that we see on a regular basis, and we feel that it deserves as much awareness as it can get. For more information, resources, and support for aphasia patients and their families, please visit the National Aphasia Association’s website.

If you or someone you know is struggling with aphasia, or if you’re simply exploring your options, please contact us. We can promise expertise, empathy, and compassion that can be heard in the testimonials of those who have worked with us previously.

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Diabetes in Men

There’s no better time than Men’s Health Month to discuss an issue that is unfortunately on the rise for men – diabetes. In fact, one of the biggest jumps in type 2 diabetes was among men, and the risk for diabetes usually increases with age. But a lack of understanding and education about the disease is a significant barrier when it comes to good health.

What is diabetes?

When you have diabetes, your body can’t properly control blood glucose. Food is normally broken down into glucose, a form of sugar, which is then released into the blood. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, stimulates cells to use glucose for energy. In type 1 diabetes, the immune system mistakenly attacks cells in the pancreas that produce insulin. Type 2 diabetes occurs when tissues in the body become resistant to the effects of insulin. Eventually, blood sugar levels begin to climb.

The Dangers of Diabetes

High glucose levels in the blood cause nerve damage, as well as damage to blood vessels. In turn, this damage can lead to heart and kidney disease, stroke, gum infections, blindness, as well as issues like erectile dysfunction and sleep apnea. Moreover, the death rate from heart disease is much higher for men who have diabetes, while amputation rates due to diabetes-related issues are higher for men than women.

Who is at risk?

As mentioned, the risk factor for type 2 diabetes usually increases with age, and it’s advised that testing for this disease should begin at age 45 – even in the absence of risk factors. Those risk factors include:

  • Leading a sedentary lifestyle with little activity. Studies show that overweight people improve their blood sugar control when they become active.
  • Being overweight or obese.
  • Having a diet that is high in refined carbohydrates and sugar and low in fiber and whole grains.
  • Having a history of type 2 diabetes in your immediate family, such as a mother, father, sister or brother.
  • Those with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes also includes African-Americans, Hispanics, American Indians, Native Alaskans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
  • Aging – because the body becomes less tolerant of sugars as you get older.
  • People who have metabolic syndrome, which is a group of problems related to cholesterol.

What’s scary is that an estimated 7 million people in the United States don’t know that they have diabetes. Meanwhile, millions of people have elevated blood sugars that aren’t yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes, but are considered to have prediabetes and are at greater risk for diabetes in the future. However, doctors can easily check for diabetes through blood tests that measure blood sugar levels.

Symptoms of Diabetes

  • Any of the following are symptoms of diabetes, and you should get tested for the disease if you’re experiencing them:
  • An increased thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Increased hunger
  • Frequent urination, particularly at night
  • Blurred vision
  • Sores that won’t heal
  • Unexplained weight loss

Preventing Diabetes

Diabetes clearly is a disease with serious health implications, but the good news is that the vast majority of cases of type 2 diabetes could be prevented or significantly delayed through a combination of exercise and healthy eating. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, losing a modest amount of weight (10 to 15 pounds) can help prevent or delay type 2 diabetes if you have prediabetes. Cells in the muscles, liver, and fat tissue become resistant to insulin when you’re carrying excess weight. It’s recommended that you build up to 30 minutes of activity a day, five days a week.

Experts also say that a healthy diet that emphasizes whole grains, fruits, and vegetables – with small amounts of sugar and carbohydrates – can prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes.

Treating Diabetes

In many cases, lifestyle changes like the ones listed above can keep diabetes under control. Many people, however, need to take oral medications that lower blood sugar levels. When those aren’t effective, insulin injections (or insulin that’s inhaled) may be necessary, sometimes in conjunction with oral medication. Diabetes treatment has improved over the years, but controlling it still remains a challenge.

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How Men Handle Stress

Everyone deals with some stress, and we can sometimes shrug it off as just being part of day-to-day living. But dealing with too much stress has become a serious issue for a lot of men, who can experience several serious health issues as a result. Here’s a look at the dangers of stress, but also healthy ways to deal with it.

Stress and its Dangers

Stress is hardly a modern phenomenon; our ancient ancestors found it helpful for prompting fight-or-flight responses that came in handy when dealing with the physical dangers of their day. While that sort of response isn’t usually necessary in today’s world, it’s still an instinctual part of us, releasing hormones that trigger an increased heart rate and breathing, constricted blood vessels, and the tightening of muscles. And that’s what stress is all about, which in turn is linked to:

  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Cancer
  • Diabetes
  • Migraines
  • A weakened immune system
  • And a variety of other issues, such as insomnia, depression, and fatigue. 

How to Deal With Stress

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to deal with the natural responses of stress. Your mental outlook is part of it, but so are things you can do physically that will help relieve stress and prevent it from becoming a hazard to your health.

1. Exercise

There’s not much that exercise won’t cure, and that certainly applies to stress. Exercise releases endorphins into the body that can give you a sense of ease and contentment, plus it removes you from the place/situation of stress and worry. Moreover, studies have shown that people who exercise regularly are less likely to develop an anxiety disorder within the next five years. And that’s not to mention the positive effects exercise has on your physical health.

2. Accept What You Can’t Change

Some things, like bad weather, can cause stress, but they’re things that you have no control over. Accept the things you can’t change but look for ways to make the best of your circumstances. Spend a rainy day reading, or go outside and play in the snow like you did as a kid.

3. First Things First

Determine your most important tasks of the day and tackle those first. Those are usually the things that cause the most stress, and saving them for later, when you may not be as physically or mentally sharp as you were earlier in the day, can create undue stress. 

4. Laugh

When you continually treat stress with the over-serious attitude, chances are you’re only going to make it worse. It’s OK to laugh it off instead of getting defensive. You’ll ease anxiety and potentially defuse the situation.

5. Avoid Stressful Situations

Recent studies show that men’s stress levels rise significantly in situations such as traffic jams. If possible, figure out different routes, or time your driving to avoid rush hour. Similarly, shop at times when stores are less crowded and spend less time with people who aggravate you.

6. Schedule Wisely

Stress is usually a consequence when you over-schedule yourself or have a hard time saying no. Only take on what you can handle, and always give yourself time to finish the things you’ve promised to get done.

7. Deal With Stress Directly

A sure way to build stress is to do nothing about it. Deal directly, and quickly, with the cause of your tension. If you’re having problems at work, talk to your boss about possible solutions. If you have a noisy neighbor, talk to them rather than simmering in your stress.

8. Meditate

Meditation is beneficial in so many ways, not the least of which is the positive affect it has on dealing with stress. Try to spend 15 to 20 minutes a day in contemplation to help clear your mind. Yoga, tai chi, and contemplative prayer are other great ways to cut the tension.

9. Savor Victories

Do something nice for yourself if you finish a major project or meet a personal goal. No matter what you choose, it’s important to celebrate before moving on to the next big task.

10. Be Positive

Having a negative outlook can turn minor annoyances into major ones. Try to always look at the sunny side of things instead.

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Groundbreaking for the Rehabilitation Hospital of Northwest Ohio

Ernest Health, Inc., and The University of Toledo announce the groundbreaking for the Rehabilitation Hospital of Northwest Ohio. The hospital will be constructed and operated by Ernest Health and located on the Health Science campus of The University of Toledo.

The new hospital, which will be known as the Rehabilitation Hospital of Northwest Ohio, will provide intensive physical rehabilitation services to patients recovering from strokes, brain and spinal cord injuries, and other impairments as a result of injuries or illness.

As an affiliate of The University of Toledo, the hospital will provide training opportunities for resident physicians of the university through a physical medicine and rehabilitation residency program and for students through clinical rotations for physical, occupational, speech therapy as well as nursing.

“We are excited to work with The University of Toledo and establish our first physical medicine and rehabilitation educational program. It’s been rewarding to collaborate with the university’s leadership to meet this community need.” said Angie Anderson, senior vice president of development for Ernest Health.
Ernest Health currently operates 23 post-acute care hospitals, including 15 rehabilitation hospitals that have consistently been recognized as being in the top 10 percent of inpatient rehabilitation hospitals nationwide for care that is patient-centered, effective, efficient and timely. The national ranking is provided by the Uniform Data System for Medical Rehabilitation (UDSMR), a not-for-profit corporation that was developed with support from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, a component of the U.S Department of Education.

“We have been supported and warmly welcomed by the University of Toledo and other healthcare and community leaders,” says Darby Brockette, CEO of Ernest Health. “We consider it a privilege to be able to serve the area and look forward to becoming an active member of the community.”

As part of the agreement between the two organizations, the Rehabilitation Hospital of Northwest Ohio will absorb operations of inpatient rehabilitative services currently offered through the medical center. There will be no interruption of services, and current staff can retain employment with the university or apply for positions at the new hospital. Officials estimate approximately 120 jobs will be created.

“This collaboration is an important step forward,” says Dr. Cooper, senior vice president for clinical affairs and dean of the College of Medicine and Life Sciences, “and signifies the value we can create for our community when we bring together the University’s assets with forward-thinking, well run community partners.”

Ernest Health will break ground on the 49,000-square foot facility at 10 a.m., May 12 during a ceremony on the site located at 1445 West Medical Loop. The public is invited to attend.

“I am pleased to welcome Ernest Health and the Rehabilitation Hospital of Northwest Ohio to Toledo. Our community will only be strengthened by the care and support given to Toledo residents by this hospital. Welcome to Toledo and thank you for enhancing our community,” said Mayor Paula Hicks-Hudson.

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