Recuperating after a stroke can be difficult for both patients and their caregivers, sometimes even more so because of communication problems caused by the lack of blood flow to the brain when a stroke occurs.
The Banner Boswell Rehabilitation Center offers patients and their families a stroke support group to help them cope with the aftereffects of a stroke, including aphasia, the inability to speak, and dysarthria, slow or slurred speech.
Boswell speech therapist Ashley Webb spoke to the support group last week to explain the different speech issues and offer tips about what can help.
“Every person’s stroke is different,” Webb said.
Aphasia, a possible side effect when a stroke occurs on the left side of the brain, can be as severe as not being able to speak at all to not being able to find the right word.
It can be very frustrating, Webb said.
For example, asking a stroke survivor “How are you feeling today?” could get an answer of “The moon is up in the sky.”
Stroke survivors can obtain recommendations for a speech therapist from their physicians, but both the time needed and the level of recovery varies from patient to patient.
A speech therapist’s goal is to give patients and caregivers things they can work on at home; daily practice is imperative, Webb said.
“The goal is not to get them 100 percent back to normal, but just to help them communicate,” she said.
Webb offered examples of activities that can help with aphasia, such as giving the stroke survivor the first letter of the word they are searching for, pointing to objects or pictures, asking yes or no questions, rephrasing the question, and giving them more time than normal to answer. Children’s flash cards and word workbooks can also be helpful.
“Make your sentences short and sweet and to the point,” Webb said.
Dysarthria is a form of aphasia caused by weakness in the facial muscles.
With dysarthria, Webb said, a stroke survivor can get the right words out, but they may be hard to understand because speech is slurred or slow.
Webb recommended these patients keep trying to work out those facial muscles and to speak slowly and exaggerate their words, like a newscaster would.
Stroke program coordinator Sheryl Szilagyi, a registered nurse, said stroke patients shouldn’t feel uncomfortable asking for a speech therapist or a second opinion from another doctor.
“Try not to give up,” Szilagyi said, who added a support group can be a great resource.
The support group meets from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. the first Thursday of each month in Banner Boswell Rehabilitation Center, 10601 W. Santa Fe Drive in Sun City.
The support group is open to all Northwest Valley stroke survivors and their loved ones. For more information, call 623-974-7000.
There is also an aphasia support group that meets from 3 to 4 p.m. on the first and third Friday of each month in the Carpe Diem Room in Banner Boswell Medical Center, 10401 W. Thunderbird Blvd., Sun City. For information, call 623-876-5349.