Saturday, June 28, 2008

Brain injury can affect ability to communicate

Brain injury can affect ability to communicate

Aphasia is always due to injury to the brain, most commonly from a stroke (about 25 to 40 percent of stroke survivors acquire aphasia). Brain injuries resulting in aphasia may also arise from head trauma, from brain tumors or from infections. The condition is determined by the location and size of the area of damage in the brain.

You can help

Improvement is a slow process that usually involves helping the individual and family understand the nature of aphasia and learning possible strategies for communicating.

Depression is a common side effect of a stroke. Watch carefully for signs and let the doctor know about these signs. Aphasics often want to stay by themselves.

Try to work with your loved one and include him or her in family activities. Taking the person out helps to socialize again.

Singing taps into right-brain stimulation and helps the left brain reorganize after a stroke. Sing songs such as "Happy Birthday," or recite rote things we knew as children, even the rosary. Also, give compliments such as, "you're getting better and better every day."

Suggestions for daily exercises include:

  • Speak in simple sentences and try to stick to one idea and one action. Spend time reading to your loved one or talking about your day.
  • Give the person with aphasia time to speak and do not finish the person's sentences unless asked. Praise any efforts the person makes to speak. Be sensitive to background noise and turn off competing sounds such as radios or TVs where possible.
  • Be open to means of communicating other than speech, such as drawings and gesturing.

    Don't be alarmed if the person cries easily or laughs inappropriately. Impulse control is often affected by stroke but can get better.

    For more resources

    Call the Allied Health licensing board at 734-7406 for a list of speech/language pathologists who provide therapy for aphasics. The purpose of speech therapy is to help the patient to fully utilize remaining skills and to learn compensatory means of communication. A stroke support group is in the planning stages.

    Renee Veksler is a Guam Memorial Hospital health educator and a community partner with the Get Healthy Guam Coalition. She may be contacted at 647-2350/1.

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