4 Cognitive Changes After a Stroke
Strokes (or cerebrovascular accidents) are life-changing for people of all ages. While physical changes are common, cognitive changes can occur and impact independence causing people to need support services. Here are 4 important cognitive changes that may occur after a stroke:
Aphasia: Aphasia is a loss of language that occurs after a stroke has happened, usually on the left hemisphere or in an area that provides bloodflow to the left frontal, parietal, and temporal lobes. When a person has aphasia, they may have trouble producing speech, verbalizing certain syllables, naming objects, and understanding language. For people with aphasia, communication becomes difficult and causes frustration. Therapeutic interventions for aphasia include working with a speech-language pathologist individually or attending an aphasia support group that provides cognitive and language activities.
Ataxia: When someone suffers a stroke, they may have difficulty with movement. Ataxia is a loss of voluntary muscle control. This can cause a person to have difficulty walking, talking, making facial expressions, and have abnormal eye movements. People with ataxia that have problems with speech may work with a speech-language pathologist to improve communication, swallowing, coughing, and how to prevent choking.
Apraxia: If someone has a stroke in the left hemisphere, they may have apraxia. Apraxia is a motor disorder where people cannot perform desired actions because their motor planning ability is lost. Activities such as combing hair, making coffee, and using a can-opener can be very difficult to nearly impossible for someone with apraxia. Apraxia can also affect speech, causing a child or adult to not be able to make the movements necessary to produce the sound of a syllable they wish to say.
Depression: Depression can follow a traumatic experience, such as having a stroke. Over a third of stroke survivors experience depression as a result of their stroke. A stroke causes damage to the brain, which then causes cognitive and motor deficits. A stroke can cause someone to lose their independence, which is upsetting for many adults. Patients with stroke may work with a team of therapists including a speech-language pathologist, occupational therapist, neuropsychologist, and physical therapist. This team of therapists can help ameliorate a person’s depression as a result of stroke by providing cognitive and physical rehabilitation along with emotional support. Patients may also attend a support group to communicate life difficulties with others who have had a stroke and learn effective coping mechanisms.
Stroke is a leading cause of disability worldwide. It can affect children and adults causing lifelong cognitive problems. Clinicians such as speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, neuropsychologists, social workers, and psychologists can help a person with stroke regain cognitive abilities and live a more independent life. Cognitive rehabilitation therapy provided by a licensed clinician can improve cognitive difficulties associated with stroke.
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