Stroke is one condition that is known by name by many Ghanaians. Lately, stroke keeps receiving a lot of attention in the media.
Many Ghanaians seem to know the physical deficits associated with stroke i.e. hemiplegia (paralysis on one side of the body) and difficulty with communication.
It appears many young ones are being more affected by this devastating condition than before. Lifestyle changes go along way to prevent stroke.
The World Stroke Organisation (WSO) states that one in four adults will experience stroke in their lifetime.
This necessitated the celebration of World Stroke Day which aims to raise awareness of the condition worldwide.
October 24 every year has been set aside to create awareness of stroke.
There is a special theme every year for this awareness. This year’s theme is ‘Precious Time’.
What is stroke?
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is cut off, either totally or partially. Brain cells require oxygen and nutrients constantly, therefore if the blood supply is not restored on time, the cells will start dying.
One of the most common consequences of stroke is Aphasia. Aphasia affects approximately 30-35 per cent of survivors of stroke.
Aphasia is a term used to describe language impairment resulting from damage to those areas of the human brain that are responsible for language.
Aphasia is a long-term, life-changing condition which affects both the client and the people around them.
Although a person can recover from stroke, those who do not recover either suffer from one disability or multiple disabilities and in the worst case scenario, they may die.
Some of the ways to prevent stroke include quitting tobacco consumption, exercising regularly and eating or drinking right. Regularly checking your blood pressure and sugar level is also important.
It is reported that stroke is the number one cause of disabilities, and it is also the second-highest reason behind people dying from a health condition.
This year’s theme is aimed at the precious life moments that can be celebrated with recovery and prevention.
If someone gets a stroke and has difficulties with communication, what are some of the things we can do to help them have precious life moments with recovery?
• Use concrete language when communicating with them. So, for example, if you want to tell them to do something a number of times in a day, saying “Morning and evening” is easier to understand than saying “twice a day.”
• Rephrase your question into simple language.
• Ask the person to repeat or try another approach if you don’t understand. For example, using pictures or gestures to check what they said. You can ask them ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions to help you understand.
• Check that you have understood them correctly.
• Use gestures or symbols to help.
• Avoid loud locations, find a quiet place to talk.
• If you ask a question, wait for the person to reply. Be patient. Don’t rush them.
• Engage them in conversation often. Do not ignore them.
Seventy-eight per cent of stroke survivors are reported to face a battle with depression, anxiety, a lack of confidence, mood swings or even suicidal thoughts.
In addition to the interventions provided by medical (neurologists, surgeons etc.) and allied health professionals (clinical psychologists, speech & language therapists, pysiotherapists, dieticians, occupational therapists etc.), the people around stroke survivors also have a role in minimising, if not stopping, these from happening.
Do not ignore stroke survivors. It is important to treat them with dignity. Let’s help them experience precious life moments with recovery!
The writer is a Speech/Language therapists/clinical tutor, University of Ghana.