I do! Read the article that Mary Burns wrote.
Did you know studies have shown up to 72% of patients have some form of cognitive impairment after stroke? Even as a medical speech-language pathologist (SLP), I found this statistic shocking. It’s a common misconception that an SLP only helps people regain their ability to speak. One of the most meaningful ways an SLP can help someone after stroke is by helping them improve and regain cognitive abilities.
Because of damage to the brain, a stroke survivor may experience changes in thinking, problem solving, memory, or attention. Factors such as the location and type of the stroke will impact the presence and severity of these side effects. Changes in cognition can make it hard for people to communicate, control emotions, perform daily tasks, or return to work or hobbies.
Stroke survivors are often reluctant to seek out services for cognitive rehabilitation because they struggle with embarrassment, fear, or denial. In order to help break down these barriers I want to provide a window into what cognitive therapy after stroke may look like.
Step 1: Your medical team will send a referral to an SLP. Depending on your abilities, this may be for in-home or outpatient therapy. The clinic will likely check your insurance benefits and call you with details. Remember, just because your team sent a referral to one clinic, does not mean you have to go there.
Step 2: You will schedule an evaluation appointment with an SLP. This appointment will typically be 60-90 minutes long. Sometimes it is helpful for a caregiver to be present, so please ask about this when you schedule your appointment. During this appointment your therapist will ask you questions about your medical history, hobbies, and goals. After a short interview, your SLP will administer a cognitive test. This test may feel discouraging and exhausting at first, but the purpose of the test is to identify your strengths, weaknesses, and how to improve. You may feel very tired after this appointment so you may want to schedule time to rest after.
Step 3: After your evaluation, you will work with your SLP to form a therapy plan. This means deciding how many times to attend therapy weekly, how long therapy may last, and goals to address. It’s important to be honest with your therapist about what schedule is reasonable for you and what you want to accomplish.
Step 4: Therapy sessions may last anywhere from 30-60 minutes. During these sessions you and your therapist will work on different activities to help your brain heal and you achieve your goals. Ask your therapist questions such as “why are we working on this?”, give feedback about what doesn’t work for you. Let your therapist know if you left an appointment feeling exhausted. This will help make your therapy more effective. You will likely leave each session with exercises or strategies to practice throughout the week. You and your SLP should work as a team to help you recover.
Recognizing that cognition has changed and asking for help can be scary. But the services that speech-language pathologists can offer can help support your return to a full life after stroke. Please talk to your doctor and let them help connect you with the right provider.
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Mary Burns, MS, CCC-SLP has been working as a medical Speech-Language Pathologist since 2014. She specializes in working with adults with swallowing or communication disorders, especially after a stroke.
Working across the continuum of care gave Mary a unique perspective on strengths and needs in the rehabilitation system. This developed her passion for advocacy of person-centered care and the inclusion of patient and community education as a part of the recovery process.
Mary was drawn to Stroke Awareness Oregon because of their dedication to breaking down barriers that allow stroke survivors and their loved ones to access the services they need. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org