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Isolated, Ignored and Misunderstood: The Daily Grind of an Aphasia Sufferer

Updated on October 25, 2017

What with the Paralympics, better upholding of disability laws, and greater representation across the media, disability is certainly more ‘visible’ than it would have been in our parents’ generation.

But HOW disabilities occur is still a topic largely avoided. Who would dare ask someone about the origin of their disability for fear of causing offence?

Strokes are the biggest causes of disability; half of all stroke survivors are left with some element of physical or mental impairment. It’s not ‘an old person’s issue’, either - a quarter of stroke victims are part of the working population, and the average age of victims is decreasing all the time. To further put it into perspective, twice as many women die from strokes each year than breast cancer.

Relative to that last statistic, for every cancer patient in the UK, £241 is spent on research into their disease. Compare this with £48 per stroke survivor, spent on understanding more about these devastating attacks.

Even if someone is amongst the 50% of stroke survivors not to sustain a subsequent disability, they could still be the one in four to suffer a second stroke within the following five years. Many are within the first thirty days of the original attack, so there’s a real need to prioritise help, support and research.

October 29 marks World Stroke Day: which is the perfect opportunity to raise awareness of strokes, as well as the potential disabilities survivors could be left with. A common condition, experienced by a third of all stroke victims (i.e. 40,000 people each year), is aphasia, which affects the patient’s ability to speak, read, write and comprehend, to varying degrees. So, not only can it be devastating to suffer a stroke, being unable to communicate and to struggle to be understood increases levels of frustration, and can leave a person feeling isolated, confused and vulnerable at a time when they need extra support and information.

An aphasia diagnosis can be devastating; sufferers are four times more likely to be depressed, and some even withdraw from the outside world altogether.

Therapy to improve the speech of aphasia sufferers’ is available on the NHS; however, as with a lot of NHS aftercare, the support is finite and quickly exhausted.

Yorkshire-based charity Speak With I.T. supports people with aphasia on a one-to-one basis in their homes, using specialist computer therapy to assist the recovery of their speech. As well as the physical benefits a sufferer receives, the therapy also provides mental support and regular respite for the person's carer. There's no end point either: Speak With I.T.’s volunteers offer their support for as long as it's required.

The charity is always on the lookout for volunteers to work with their clients, as well as more referrals from health professionals across the region. If you think you could help people with aphasia regain their speech, their confidence and their place in the world, call 01924 580970.

© 2017 Diane Hall SWIT

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