Stroke Association: Survivors with communication problems isolated

People with stroke-related communication impairments are often isolated and unsupported, the Stroke Association warned yesterday as it launched a campaign to improve support.

In a report to launch its Lost Without Words campaign, it said the loss of communication skills following a stroke caused frustration, loss of independence and depression.

The charity estimates that a third of stroke survivors – between 250,000–300,000 people in the UK – currently live with a stroke-related communication impairment – in most cases, aphasia, which affects the ability to use and understand language.

No accurate figures

However, it said there were no accurate figures for incidence to inform the provision of services, such as speech and language therapy.

The report also highlighted the importance of  support groups in helping survivors improve communication. However, it found only around 13% of those with long-term communication problems had access to communication support groups in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Research also found “alarmingly low levels of awareness” of the problems faced by stroke victims among the public, health professionals and politicians.

‘Imprisoned and depressed’

Director of external affairs Joe Korner said: “We all need to communicate. Whether it’s through speaking, a hand gesture or the blink of an eye, the ability to interact with others is crucial. The loss of these basic skills can leave stroke survivors feeling imprisoned and depressed.”

The association is calling on health commissioning bodies to audit the incidence of stroke-related communication impairments in their areas and the current availability of communication support, in order to address unmet needs. It also called for analysis of the impact of loss of communication on stroke survivors and their families.

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