A special thank you to Genevieve Richardson of LIFE Speech Pathology for providing her expertise for this guest post.
Strokes affect people of all different ages. In this article we’re going to talk about how speech therapy can have a dramatic impact on quality of life for those who have suffered a stroke.
What is the Average Age of Someone Who Has a Stroke?
We think of stroke as a condition affecting older people, but every year, about 70,000 Americans under age 45 have strokes. Kelley-Hays, 2011 reports that the risk of stroke increases with age, with the incidence doubling with each decade after the age of 45 years.
Seventy percent of all strokes occur above the age of 65. She says, "for the 6.5 million individuals who survive a stroke ...nearly half will have moderate to severe neurological deficits."
According to the National Aphasia Association, more people have aphasia than many other common neurological conditions across the U.S., including multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, or muscular dystrophy.
The NIDCD (National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders, 2015) states that approximately one million people, or 1 in 250 in the U.S. today, are living with aphasia.
Aphasia, a Language Disorder After a Stroke
What is aphasia? Aphasia can be defined as any impairment in speaking, listening, reading, or writing. In general, communication starts with a thought which progresses to the message. The typical progression is:
Thought —> Concept --> Meaning --> Intention --> Words --> Word Order --> Intonation --> Articulation = MESSAGE.
Some examples of impairments in language include a person's ability to:
- understand simple directions like "lift your leg"
- be able to say the words "I'm thirsty"
- put words in the right order
- understand written words
- remember words
Aphasia is complex, and it impacts each person differently.
What can be done? Communication is such a critical part of our quality of life. The answer is speech therapy.
A speech-language pathologist, SLP, or speech pathologist, plays a crucial role in every level of rehabilitation, from acute care through outpatient treatment.
According to World Health Organization’s 2001 International Classification of Function framework, the goal of speech therapy after a stroke is to "help the individual achieve the highest level of independent function for participation in daily living." Therefore, evaluation and treatment by a speech language pathologist after a stroke are critical at all levels of rehabilitation.
The Role of a Speech Pathologist in the Rehabilitation Process
A speech language pathologist (SLP) plays an important part in every phase of recovery after a stroke.
Acute Medical Care
The role of a speech language pathologist in acute medical care is to meet the patient's short-term needs and provide family education. For example, a patient may not be able to communicate their immediate wants and conditions after a stroke. Therefore, the SLP will work with the patient to establish a consistent communication method with physicians, therapists, and family.
When patients become medically stable and can tolerate a minimum amount of rehabilitation therapy daily, they transition into acute inpatient rehabilitation. Following a thorough evaluation, the speech language pathologist works with the patient, family, and medical and repair team to establish a plan of treatment to help the patient reach their highest potential in this setting.
Home Health Rehabilitation
Speech pathology treatment in the home is functional. Let's meet Phyllis, a 70-year-old stroke survivor. Phyllis was discharged home to her mobile home, where she could physically get around, complete activities of daily living, and even do light meal prep.
Functionally, however, she could not dial a telephone. She couldn't read numbers, and she only had limited words she could speak, although her listening understanding was good. The treatment addressed her ability to read phone numbers, dial the phone, and utilize a script for general conversation with friends or her daughter.
Outpatient physical, occupational therapy, and speech pathology treatment can occur at a hospital's outpatient clinic or private practice. In addition, some mobile physical therapy companies can come to you at home, and you don't have to be homebound.
Telepractice for Speech Therapy Treatment as an Outpatient
Often, people recovering from a stroke are challenged with getting to and from appointments. The good news is that speech pathology treatment can be done via telemedicine, also called telepractice.
Telepractice treatment is just as effective as in-person treatment. Even better news, Medicare, under part B, began paying for telepractice in March 2020. Telepractice makes getting vital health care services like speech therapy much more convenient and, I would argue, more effective.
In addition, Medicare participants have greater access to specialized therapists, such as speech pathologists working exclusively with stroke survivors, than before the pandemic.
No longer does a beneficiary have to settle for geographically close treatment. Treatment is only an internet connection away.
Speech Therapy After Stroke in Austin, TX
Spontaneous recovery is defined as the period the brain experiences healing, typically the first three to six months following a stroke. Receiving targeted, functional therapy early on in a stroke can maximize spontaneous recovery, and the patient will gain more function for daily living.
But what happens after the first six months? You may have a friend discharged from speech pathology treatment because they reached a plateau. Many doctors and therapists believed this was the end of rehabilitation. However, research shows that recovery can continue years after a stroke.
LIFE Speech Pathology, located in Austin, Texas, is a participating Medicare part B provider specializing in treating chronic aphasia via telepractice. Chronic refers to the period after the first six months of stroke recovery.
We work with clients of all ages and have the experience of meeting them where they are both in their life stages and recovery. Treatment requires a specialized understanding of the brain and a large toolbox for treatment.
We pride ourselves on our ability to help people even when they have been turned away from other therapists. For example, most of our clients came to us more than one year after their stroke, having been told they had reached a plateau. Often it is less about the person's recovery than the size of the clinician's toolbox.
We reject the concept of a plateau for aphasia.
Instead, we believe in treating and supporting the Whole Person + Whole Family. We work with our clients to recover, reconnect, and normalize their speech.
We provide speech therapy after stroke to our clients using evidence-based treatment methods and innovative, out-of-the-therapy box treatment. We focus on strengthening the underlying cognitive supports for communication, overcoming learned helplessness, and emphasizing self-generated speech.
In therapy, we focus on behavior and performance by incorporating various goal-setting techniques to define and achieve communication goals important to that individual and their family.
Is Telepractice Speech Pathology Treatment Right for Your Loved One?
- Do you believe you can communicate better?
- Have you been discharged from outpatient speech pathology but believe you can get back to the garden club and talk to your granddaughter on FaceTime?
- Are you motivated to improve and committed to practicing every day?
- Do you have a computer or tablet with an internet connection?
Telepractice could be perfect for you! Specialized treatment for chronic aphasia and related disorders is just an internet connection away.
Do you feel nervous about getting on a computer? We have NEVER FAILED to get a person independently logged in and out of or to use the computer effectively in a telepractice speech therapy session.
Curious about how we can help you reach your goals? LIFE Speech Pathology offers a complimentary consultation to discuss your goals and Medicare eligibility to accomplish these goals.
How Life Aphasia Academy is Supporting Families
Many clients we see for treatment come to us years after a stroke. Rehabilitation and the support received from counselors, social workers, and nurses during that process are long gone.
Families are on their own, making their way on a strange journey. The spouses we work with have often had to assume roles and make decisions they never had to do alone, and many are overwhelmed. Families have a great need for information, resources, support, and self-care. They not only want to share their experiences, but they also need to talk with others in similar situations to know they are not alone!
The needs of the spouse and family are real, often not recognized until the healthy spouse develops a health problem or is exhausted. We created a second company to fill this gap for spouses and families. LIFE Aphasia Academy℠, a sister company to LIFE Speech Pathology, was designed to support families and spouses living with aphasia and related disorders. LIFE Aphasia Academy is working to meet the needs of spouses and families.
First, we created and launched a podcast. Check out the Listen for LIFE podcast, available now on your favorite podcast provider. It covers topics from aphasia insights, the latest in speech pathology treatment, and resources families need to be aware of to feel supported in their rehabilitation journey. In addition, the podcast offers a variety of free downloadable handouts on topics. Topics include Communication Partner Training, Hiring an In-Home Caregiver, Having the Talk, and Finding the Right Senior Living Facility, to name a few.
If fact we just released Episode #11, discussing Medicare and the Annual Enrollment Period from October 15th to December 7th. This is an essential podcast where you will learn relevant information and better understand your Medicare and insurance options.
The second way LIFE Aphasia Academy supports spouses, families, and caregivers living with aphasia is by providing information and training via courses. Launching in January of 2023, the Aphasia Field Guide: A Blueprint for Identifying Aphasia Characteristics and Advocacy for your Loved One with Aphasia is the first course.
We hope you have found this blog to be informational. We are passionate about serving clients with aphasia and their families. If we can be of service to you or your loved one, please connect with us.
Our email is [email protected].
LIFE Speech Pathology and LIFE Aphasia Academy℠: helping clients and their families Do More, Do LIFE.