When a family member or friend has communication problems after stroke, it can be difficult to know how to help them. Maintaining social interactions can be a huge factor in someone's recovery so it's important to offer support.
Liz Jenkins from our Stroke Helpline shares some guidance:
How can I support with speech and language therapy?
- Talk to the speech and language therapist (SALT) - Ask the SALT for information on the stroke survivor's communication skills and progress, so you can support them to meet their goals. The SALT can also help you learn how to have successful conversations with the stroke survivor and find alternative ways to communicate.
- Encourage them to practise - Show an interest in what they're doing and make time to practise with them, whether that's supporting with exercises or prompting conversations. But don't force them into practising if they're not feeling up to it.
- Take breaks - Communicating can be exhausting, especially to begin with. Suggest a time limit on exercises or encourage them to rest if they're getting tired.
- Keep it light-hearted - Try to make it fun and introduce a bit of humour. Having a laugh about it can help you both to relax and ease the pressure.
- Be patient if they get frustrated or don't want to practise - They may be struggling with other effects of stroke such as pain, fatigue or depression, which can impact their motivation and outlook. If you feel they need help with these, ask the GP for medical advice.
- Keep track of their progress - Seeing how far they've come and the improvements they've made can be a real boost.
How can I support them in conversation?
Talk about things you're both interested in, but stick to one topic at a time. Keep sentences short and ask one question at a time to avoid bombarding them with information.
Choose times to chat when you both have the energy and patience to concentrate. Remove distractions, such as turning off the TV, so you each have the other's full attention.
Listen carefully and don't rush. It can take 30 seconds or more for someone to respond, so give them the time they need to find the words. Try not to finish sentences or guess what they're trying to say. Be honest and tell them if you haven't understood.
Stroke News magazine
This article is featured in the spring 2023 edition of our magazine, Stroke News. Subscribe to our future editions available in print, on audio CD, or via email.