The 29 October is World Stroke Day. Stroke is known as the third leading causing of death worldwide. Speech Therapy is essential to help people to communicate better and improve their ability to eat and drink safely. Here is some useful information of the communication difficulties experienced when someone has a stroke:
What happens when a stroke occurs?
A stroke occurs when there is a blockage or eruption to an artery in the brain. An eruption or blockage of an artery causes a lack of supply of oxygen and nutrients to the brain, thus affecting areas of the brain responsible for speech and language. In some cases, a person may have a transient ischemic attack (TIA), also known as a “mini- stroke”. This occurs because of a temporary blockage in an artery. A TIA can cause some minor symptoms of a stroke such as weakness, dizziness, speech difficulties however may only last for a few minutes. Do not ignore a TIA because this can be a warning for a massive stroke to occur. It is estimated that about one third of people who have a stroke will sustain some level of communication difficulties (aphasia, Apraxia or Dysarthria) and approximately half will lose their ability to swallow.
Anatomy of the Brain
Damage to certain areas of the brain can cause different types of language and cognitive difficulties. Speech Therapy focuses on improving the difficulties caused by the stroke.
Often 1/3 of people who have a stroke will have difficulties speaking, communicating and/or swallowing. Speech Therapy treats these difficulties and help a person to speak clearly, establish better communication and improved swallowing and feeding (Click here to read up more about feeding and swallowing difficulties). There are different types of speech and language difficulties which could occur following a stroke. Aphasia is one of the most common language disorders.
Speech Therapy improves speaking and communication by:
Þ Language exercises to help retrieve words and produce sentences
Þ Comprehension of functional vocabulary and everyday needs
Þ Muscle strengthening for weak, paralysed muscles in the face and throat
Þ Respiratory exercises to improve breath support for speech.
Þ Use of communication aids to assist when verbal communication is weak or absent.
How do you help a friend/relative who has had a stroke to recover?
The most important thing is to understand that a person who had a stroke requires support and motivation to recover. Family and friends play an important role in therapy because they are the ones that assist and implement therapy activities. Try to keep conversations brief so that the person with a stroke understands better and can engage in a conversation with you. Give the person plenty of time to answer you. Do not rush them or finish their sentences as this creates frustration. Don’t baby talk or speak too loudly when speaking. Try to include the person who has a stroke into normal activities, Don’t ignore them and leave them out.
Tips to help communicating with people with Aphasia