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Aphasia has been in the global spotlight recently following actor Bruce Willis’ announcement that he has retired from acting after being diagnosed with the condition.
Willis, most famous for his parts in the Die-Hard films, is 67 years old. His family says his diagnosis is “impacting his cognitive abilities” but they have not revealed what could have caused the condition.
In a joint statement on Instagram, the actor’s family said: “As a result of this and with much consideration Bruce is stepping away from the career that has meant so much to him.”
Aphasia is a condition that affects your ability to communicate. It generally affects the left side of the brain, which is the language-dominant side.
People with aphasia develop problems with understanding and using language. This is commonly most obvious in the way they speak, but they may also have trouble reading, writing, and listening.
It can cause difficulties with the way that people understand things they read or hear and make it harder for them to express themselves. This means it is especially difficult for actors to carry out tasks like reading scripts and learning lines.
There are different types of aphasia, broadly categorised as ‘expressive’ or ‘receptive’
Expressive aphasia, also called Broca’s or non-fluent aphasia, tends to affect speech more than listening skills. This means that people might struggle to get certain words out or find it hard to construct a sentence.
With receptive aphasia, also known as Wernicke, people find it harder to understand things they hear or read. This can affect their ability to interpret gestures and images and have an impact on daily activities like reading emails, watching TV, and dealing with finances.
It is very common for people to experience communication problems after suffering a head injury as a result of a serious accident.
The brain injury association Headway UK explains that this can affect people’s emotions, behaviour, cognitive abilities, and physical abilities, depending on which part of the brain was affected and how severe the injury was.
Aphasia can become a problem after head injuries if the Wernicke’s area or the Broca’s area of the brain have been affected. These are the two areas of the brain that help us understand and use language.
According to Headway UK, people experiencing aphasia after a head injury will usually be assessed by a speech and language therapist, who will be able to recommend a treatment programme including therapy advice and coping strategies.
Louise Gardner, a specialist personal injury solicitor in our Swindon team, who specialises in brain and head injuries, says:
“We all take language for granted when it comes easily, so it’s hard to appreciate how devastating it is for people to suddenly lose their ability to communicate effectively.
“It’s a shock to see a well-known film star like Bruce Willis give up his career due to the condition, but it highlights just how disabling the affects of aphasia can be.
“Not being able to find the right words to express yourself or struggling to carry out simple tasks like paying the bills can knock your confidence and have a huge impact on daily life. This is especially hard when you are also coping with the after-effects of a serious accident.
“We understand how difficult this situation is, and we have many years of experience helping and supporting people whose lives have changed dramatically after a head injury.”
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