Last week, the family of actor Bruce Willis announced he was retiring from acting after being diagnosed with a disorder known as aphasia.
It was big news in Hollywood, and it was big news for a local organization that sees this as an opportunity to bring attention to aphasia — something millions are afflicted with but that many don't know much about.
Voices of Hope For Aphasia is based in the Tampa Bay. Executive Director Debbie Yones said they're very grateful that the Willis family was open about the “aphasia” diagnosis.
Yones sees it as an opportunity to raise awareness and reach people who may be suffering from it and not know.
“If you don’t know the word, if you don’t know the condition, then you don’t know what to look for to find the resources that are available and here in Tampa Bay," Yones said. "Voices of Hope is here to provide resources and help and education.”
The core definition of aphasia is a loss of language. That can mean trouble with speech, understanding, reading and writing.
There are sudden onset and slower onset, or degenerative forms of aphasia. Most cases are due to a stroke, and in those cases, cognitive impairments are rare. The good news is in many cases, improvements can be made, and quality of life can get better.
“The first day after the stroke or the accident, really that’s the worst day. Every day after that can be better. As long as you keep engaging and as long as you keep practicing speech therapy is a huge part of that but also being involved and using communication in whatever form that may look like," Yones said.
You can learn more about Voices of Hope on their website here.
They don't require a fee for their programs, so if you or someone you know is having difficulty speaking, understanding, reading or writing, they can offer help.