Benefits of Speech Therapy After a Stroke
One of the most traumatic effects of a stroke is losing the ability to communicate, a condition known as aphasia. Up to 40 percent of all stroke victims have their ability to speak or understand speech affected to some degree. Thankfully, speech therapy can help patients regain some or all of this important function.
Communication Problems from a Stroke
A stroke, sometimes called a “brain attack,” occurs when a blockage or burst blood vessel prevents blood from flowing to parts of the brain. The resulting lack of oxygen can quickly cause large numbers of cells in the brain to die. Depending on the area affected, damage from a stroke can cause any number of physical and mental changes.
When a stroke causes damage in one of the areas of the brain dedicated to producing or understanding speech, victims may experience trouble communicating with others. The severity of this impairment varies widely from patient to patient. Some victims may only have minor difficulties, while others may suffer a complete loss of all verbal abilities.
Speech Therapy Benefits
According to the National Stroke Association, nearly two-thirds of the estimated seven million stroke survivors in the United States end up with some level of disability. Receiving rehabilitative treatment by physical, occupational and speech therapists can significantly improve these disabilities.
Senatobia Healthcare & Rehab speech therapists note that working with survivors in the first few weeks after suffering a stroke often helps them to make big improvements in their abilities. Research corroborates these observations, showing that patients who immediately work with a speech-language therapist have an increased opportunity to regain speech and other functions.
What to Expect in Speech Therapy Sessions
Speech therapy sessions typically start with an assessment to establish a baseline of how the stroke has affected the patient’s communication abilities. The assessment includes tests to measure difficulty speaking, understanding speech and reading. Using the results of this assessment, therapists recommend an individualized recovery plan for the stroke victim.
For example, some patients have difficulty understanding the meanings of words spoken to them, known as receptive aphasia. In these cases, the speech therapist may ask the patient to match words to pictures, sort words based on meaning, and judge whether certain words have the same meaning.
For patients that have difficulty speaking words, known as expressive aphasia, speech therapists may ask them to describe their surroundings or repeat simple sounds or phrases. This strengthens the patient’s ability to remember the meanings of different words and connect them to both the spoken and written forms.
Family Involvement in Speech Therapy
For some patients, involving a loved one in the recovery process can be an effective way to improve the results of therapy. Therefore, speech therapists often invite family members to participate in sessions and observe the exercises. Family members are also provided with written instructions for exercises they can practice with their loved one at home between sessions.
The best way to prevent damage from a stroke, however, is learning to recognize the signs of a stroke and immediately seek medical attention when you see them. In 2009, the National Stroke Association popularized the acronym F.A.S.T. to help improve recognition of these symptoms:
- F = FACE — Ask the person to smile. Look closely for an uneven smile or pronounced drooping on one side.
- A = ARMS — Ask the person to raise both arms in the air and hold them there for a few seconds. Look for one arm drifting towards the ground or weakness on one side.
- S = — SPEECH Ask the person to repeat a simple sentence. Listen for slurred speech or unusual speech patterns.
- T = TIME — If you observe any of these signs, don’t wait! It’s time to call 9-1-1 and get to the nearest stroke center or hospital.
For Compassionate Care After a Stroke Choose Senatobia Healthcare & Rehab
Our Baldridge Award-winning skilled nursing facility has been owned and operated by the same family since 1978. We provide both short- and long-term care and we strive to restore our residents to independent living as quickly as possible. Reach out to us to schedule a tour and see if our highly-trained medical care team is right for you and your loved ones.