A stroke can cause many bewildering changes in a person’s emotions and behavior. Suddenly, he or she can seem like a completely different person than before the stroke. In a way, this is true. Stroke survivors’ brains have been injured. The behaviors and emotions they display are reflections of that injury.
The loss of a person’s former identity can result in depression, anger, and frustration. Loss and the grieving process are closely linked. The stroke patient and family members may find themselves going through the stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance). Family members may also experience grief as they have lost the previous relationship with the patient.
Understanding and dealing with these changes and losses are just as important as the physical issues that are dealt with in the rehabilitation process.
Stroke survivors may have difficulty with their communication skills following a stroke. They can be broadly classified in two general categories:
- Motor speech disorders
Simply defined, aphasia is the loss of ability to communicate normally resulting from damage typically to the left side of the brain, which houses the communication center. It may affect a person’s verbal expression (getting words out) and/or auditory comprehension (understanding what is being said to them). It may also affect their ability to read, write, and deal with numbers.
Additional information regarding aphasia can be obtained from a speech language pathologist or from the following websites:
- American Speech-Language Hearing Association (ASHA): www.asha.org
- American Stroke Association: www.strokeassociation.org
Motor speech disorders
Some stroke survivors may have slurred or garbled speech as a result of muscle weakness or incoordination (called dysarthria) or motor programming of speech muscles (called apraxia).
A Speech-Language Pathologist will be asked to assess the patient’s communication skills and discuss with the family ways to help improve communication with the stroke survivor. The speech language pathologist will also recommend any further follow-up after discharge from the hospital.