How To Communicate With A Loved One Who Has A Debilitating Stroke
Robert C. Fisher
A stroke can affect different parts of the brain. If part of the brain that manages communication is damaged, your loved one may have problems with communication.
Damage to the brain’s communication centers is very common after a stroke, affecting almost one-third of stroke survivors.
If your loved one is a stroke survivor, it’s best to be prepared for what communication problems may arise, and know how to best communicate with them to understand their needs. Understanding how to best communicate with a stroke victim post-stroke could add to their stroke recovery and help them relearn communication skills.
In this article, we’ll cover communication problems to look out for after one suffers a stroke. We will also detail how your loved one can recover from communication problems after a stroke, as well as vital communication tips to practice with them.
By the end of this article, you will have a better understanding of how your loved one’s communication challenges can be resolved post-stroke.
3 Communication Problems That Can Occur After A Stroke
Life after a stroke can be challenging and The three types of communication problems your loved one may have after a stroke include Aphasia, Dysarthria, and Apraxia of speech (AOS).
Let’s review each type of communication problem a stroke can cause in more detail.
What is aphasia?
Over thirty percent of stroke survivors suffer from Aphasia; a language disorder resulting from damage to the brain cells. Aphasia is characterized by difficulty speaking and understanding what other people are saying.
Those suffering from Aphasia often eliminate the words “and” and “the” from their vocabulary, and speak in a very deliberate manner. If you know someone with Aphasia, you can help them recover their speech by including them in conversations, being patient while they speak, and encouraging more communication.
Dysarthria is a disorder that causes slurred or slowed speech due to facial muscle and/or mouth weakness on the right side of the face after a stroke. It is a relatively common disorder among stroke survivors, but through language and speech therapy, partial, and even full recovery, is possible.
The signs of dysarthria include nasal-sounding or hoarse voice tones, irregular speaking rhythms, and difficulty with lip and tongue movements. Aside from speech therapy, you can assist those with dysarthria by making eye contact with them when they talk, allowing them to make vocabulary mistakes, and reducing background noises and distractions.
Apraxia of Speech (AOS)
A speech sound disorder, apraxia of speech is known for making the speech patterns of stroke survivors inconsistent and incorrect. In essence, the brain knows what it wants to say but is unable to properly communicate the words.
The symptoms of AOS are easy to recognize, as they typically include errors in tone, rhythm, and stress when speaking.
A person's ability to recover from AOS is often a long process and in most cases, full recovery is never achieved. Speech therapy and one-on-one talk therapy have been shown to help, however, only to a limited degree.
How To Recover From Communication Problems After A Stroke
With time, it is possible for communication problems to improve, though it's highly individual. You may notice recovery after stroke occurring for months or years down the line.
Stroke rehabilitation support from a speech-language pathologist can help stroke patients improve their speech and regain much of their ability to read and write.
Speech-language pathologists can help stroke survivors regain independence around language skills, self-care, and mobility.
In addition, your loved one's healthcare provider may recommend compensation strategies, including electronic devices, apps, or other aids, to help with communication.
What Tips Help You Communicate With Your Loved One After A Stroke?
Communicating with your loved one after their stroke is crucial, as it can help them recover their speaking abilities. Several techniques have proven useful when communicating with stroke survivors and they include the following:
Show patience and allow them more time to process information.
Turn off distractions, including the television or radio, while you talk to each other.
Speak slowly using your normal speaking volume and simple sentences.
Try pointing at items or pictures - there are communication cards and apps that can help make this easier
Provide a whiteboard and dry erase marker to communicate via drawing or writing
Avoid rushing your loved one to answer and resist answering questions for them, as this will help them gain confidence in their speaking abilities.
For dysarthria, a voice amplifier can make your loved one’s speech louder
Consider helping your loved one make video calls rather than phone calls. Video calling may be easier to navigate for a stroke survivor with speech problems than phone calls are.
Stroke recovery can be challenging for caregivers.
Ask questions as you communicate with your loved one's health care team so that you can better navigate the recovery process and discuss treatment options. As a stroke survivor, you will play an important role in your loved one's rehabilitation.
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