Statistics show that each year an estimated 700,000 individuals in the U.S. suffer a stroke, many of whom have difficulty speaking and/or understanding speech afterward. As a result, speech language pathologists-also referred to as speech therapists-work with clients in the home care setting to help stroke victims regain their communication skills and express their needs to caregivers.
Since stroke doesn’t necessarily impair a client’s oral speech alone, the goal of speech-language therapy is to help a person recover as much of his or her language skills as possible. In some cases, clients must learn other methods of communication to make up for language deficits following a stroke.
Some individuals recover from language impairment within a few months following a stroke, but for other people the condition is chronic and persists longer-sometimes for years. If a stroke affects a person’s vision or memory as well, communication can be even more difficult.
While not all stroke victims completely lose the ability to speak and/or understand language, the speech of individuals can still be affected in complicated ways. In some cases, a therapist may need to offer instruction on alternative methods of communication such as writing, drawing, or using a letter or communication board.
When stroke causes serious damage to the areas of the brain that control language, a client may be unable to both speak and understand language. Thus, individuals with this level of brain damage can’t read or write either.
Verbal Communication Reinforcement
Speech-language pathologists generally encourage stroke victims to speak instead of using gestures to communicate so that their verbal communication skills directly improve. As part of treatment, a speech therapist may combine verbal communication therapy with language games to help build language skills.
If speech is slow, it’s important to give the person time to process what others say and how to respond. Therefore, a therapist generally will also discourage family members and caregivers from speaking for the client.
Expressive Language Relearning
Sometimes individuals with speech deficits have trouble finding the right words to say, yet they understand what other people are saying to them. If a client’s expressive language is impaired, a speech therapist may provide prompts or have the person name pictures or repeat words.
Receptive Language Emphasis
Receptive language impairment is another problem that may occur after a person has a stroke. Consequently, a client may have difficulty understanding the meanings of words, say things that don’t make sense, and have difficulty reading and writing.
If receptive language is a problem, a speech therapist will focus on activities like matching words to pictures or sorting words by their meanings. These activities help a client strengthen his or her ability to remember word meanings.
Oral Motor Exercises
Muscles in the mouth weakened by stroke can make it difficult to form words and sounds. Often a stroke victim’s speech is slurred. In cases like these, a speech therapist will instruct a client in oral motor exercises that strengthen mouth, tongue, and throat muscles.
Strokes can impair tongue movement; therefore, speech therapists teach tongue exercises to help individuals pronounce words and articulate their speech more clearly. Vocal cord paralysis due to a stroke may respond to voice therapy where a speech-language pathologist instructs a client in exercises to strengthen the vocal cords and improve breath control when talking.
More people are receiving a variety of rehabilitative and other health care services in the home than ever before, including for speech impairments and recovering from strokes.
When a client requires speech-language pathology services, keys to regaining or improving communication and language skills affected by stroke include repetition, perseverance, and time. Generally, a speech language pathologist has the client begin with simple language techniques and progress to more complex language skills.
No matter what kinds of home care services you or a loved one may need, the focus of the trained professionals at Queen City Home Care centers on improving our client’s quality of life.