Last updated Oct. 12, 2017
A stroke is a terrible event. It can happen quite suddenly, seemingly without warning and leave the patient feeling horribly confused, trapped and panicked.
Stroke is an attack caused by a clot or obstruction in a blood vessel in the brain. It can happen at any age and stage of health. Its after effects can be devastating to the person and their loved ones.
Depending on the part of the brain that was affected, the after results can leave the patient with impaired physical mobility as well as loss of fine motor control, cognition, and speech.
The loss of communication is extremely common after a stroke. Patients lose the ability to speak or understand what people are saying. Writing, reading, feeding, and holding objects are also monumental acts of concentration.
Patients will gain back what they lost either fully or to a partial degree but it takes time, diligence and various forms of therapy.
Some patients who have experienced minor strokes can suddenly regain their speech without therapy involved. For those who have experienced a more severe stroke, therapy is not only needed, but crucial to recovery.
If your loved one has had a stroke, they must follow the recovery regimen that their physician orders.
Here are a few steps to help their speech recovery even further:
Immediately After the Stroke
It is important to start rehabilitation immediately after a stroke. Studies have shown that the best improvements are in communication with patients who are participating in a rehabilitation program as early as possible after a stroke.
The purpose of rehab is to regain and rebuild skills lost due to the stroke. Complete rehabilitation might include physical, occupational and speech therapy.
The latter involves help with daily tasks until they can be accomplished independently, such as getting dressed and feeding.
Strokes can cause different types of communication impairment depending on what part of the brain was affected. Here are some common issues:
- Aphasia (Dysphasia): This impairment makes it very difficult for the patient to find the right word choice to use. It is also very hard to get out long sentences or understand what other people are saying.
- Dyspraxia of Speech: This occurs when there is a hindrance between the message in the brain and forming the words to come out of the mouth. With a hindrance, in between it can make the words difficult to get out.
- Dysarthria: This occurs when the speaking muscles have been paralyzed or weakened due to stroke. This phenomenon will slur the speech and make it garbled and hard for others to understand.
- Voice: Strokes can also affect the vocal cords and the muscles around them. The muscles can be paralyzed or weakened by the stroke making speech extremely difficult as the voice needs to be forced out.
- Reading and Writing: Problems here can span different areas of the body from paralyzed muscles in the hand and arm, to cognitive impairments that obstruct the ability to read and understand the written word.
The physician or hospital will get the patient in touch with the needed therapists and appointments will be set to start the therapy journey.
All on the Same Team
Dealing with the after limitations of a stroke are frustrating for all concerned. Family and friends must learn to live with their newly changed loved one.
For all their frustration, double and even triple it to find what the patient himself is going through.
Simple things that were once taken for granted or done by rote are suddenly goals to learn to do over again. The past self gets angry at the present self’s fumbling limitations. It is hard to all concerned.
Therapists know this. They are on your side. The recovery will be slow and tedious, but it will happen.
Speech therapy needs to be utilized to improve communication and speech skills will work to rebuild new ones.
Do the Homework
The work doesn’t stop when the therapy appointment is over. In fact, it only begins the work week.
Most of the exercises and rehabilitation will be done at home and away from the therapist. It is extremely important to do your speech and other exercises every day and sometimes several times a day, depending on the skill and your therapist’s orders.
It is common for stroke patients to:
- Know the words but cannot say them
- Repeat words
- Not understand complete sentences
- Not remember details
- Speak with garbled or slurred speech
- Control volume in the voice or emotion
The only way to progress is to do skills and exercises daily. Do not wait to do them the day before your therapy session. That does not help the patient or the therapists who is trying to see progress.
Keep up the work all week long to see a faster recovery.
Stay the Course
It is very important to work with the speech therapists during recovery. Do what they tell you to do.
Do not give up even though the therapy is hard and progress seems miniscule. Stay the course. Speech therapy will return through diligence and hard work. Do not give up!
A lot of patients grow impatient with the program and get discouraged. They give up before it’s over.
This help no one - especially the patient. Instead, keep the patient’s morale up. Encourage them and keep all appointments. Do not cancel any as this slows progression. Don’t expect it all to come back in only a few weeks. Recovering from a stroke is hard work. It takes patience and strength and a lot of motivation.
Most recovery will take place in the first six months although Improvements can still be made over the course of years.
Work with your loved one and set small attainable goals along the path of recovery.
Achieving these goals will help keep up morale and allow the patient to clearly see improvement along the way. Work with the therapists to set goals together and work towards them.
The support of family and friends are a crucial part of the recovery process. This cannot be stressed enough.
Studies prove that patients with a loving support group have a better recovery rate than those who are alone in their recovery. Stroke patients need your help. They must relearn many things and that takes time.
Patience and love is what they need to regain their independence. Family support helps the patient to rebuild lost skills and cognitive abilities.
Engage your loved one in conversation. Bring over the children to talk and converse or watch television together. Ask the stroke patient questions and engage their thinking.
These will help to improve speaking skills. Family and loved ones should work with the speech therapist to learn ways of communication with the patient depending on how much damage the stroke has caused.
Working with the patient will help to improve their skills and help the family to learn the new changes and how to help. When working with a stroke patient:
- Speak in short and concise sentences.
- Allow the patient more time to respond and encourage them to speak their mind.
- Use gestures as well as words as you talk.
- Be sensitive.
Speech therapy after a stroke is a terrifying and humbling experience for the patient. In many ways, the patient can remember how they were and feel very inadequate after their stroke as they weigh and measure their limitations.
Rehabilitation must be started as early after stroke as possible and encouraged throughout the long process of recovery. Everyone has a part to play from the patient, to the therapist, to the loved ones and supporters.
It takes the love and patience of many to help a love one. The results are worth it to help the patient gain back their communication skills.
If you have any questions, please contact us.