Communication difficulties can be caused by different conditions and are common after stroke, brain injury and brain tumour or as a result of progressive neurological conditions such as Dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
Communication difficulties can have a significant impact on both the individual and their loved one’s quality of life. Communication difficulties may leave individuals and their families feeling isolated, frustrated and anxious about the future.
Communication difficulties can present themselves in many different ways and you may have had terms such as Aphasia, Dysarthria or Apraxia of Speech. These are medical terms for the different types of communication difficulties Speech and Language Therapists provide support and rehabilitation for.
An individual may have: slurred speech (dysarthria); have problems finding or saying the right words (aphasia); difficulty with reading (dyslexia) and writing (dysgraphia); their speaking voice may be quiet (dysphonia) or sometimes the words that come out may not make much sense to those listening (aphasia and/or apraxia of speech). Communication difficulties may also leave individuals having difficulty understanding conversation or following instructions, or problems with cognitive skills like concentration and memory.
Speech and Language Therapists can help in identifying communication strengths and areas of need to support both the individual, their family and loved ones.
Facial weakness, known as facial palsy, can be caused by number of different reasons including: viral infection which is a common cause of Bell's Palsy; neurological conditions such as Guillain-Barre syndrome; traumatic brain injury (TBI) and stroke.
Weak facial muscles may impact on speech intelligibility and speech sounds may become unclear or distorted.
When facial muscles become weak this can also impact on eating and drinking. For example, an individual may have difficulty creating a lip seal around a cup or spoon/fork.
Speech therapy can provide support, education and advice on eating, drinking and speech improvement. We are also able to provide assessment of the facial muscles, identify any unwanted movements on the unaffected side and provide exercises for home therapy if appropriate.
We are also able to provide referral onto specialist teams if necessary.
As a Speech and Language Therapist, part of my role is also to assess and manage swallowing problems.
Difficulties with swallowing is known as dysphagia and this can occur as a result of a sudden neurological event like stroke or brain injury, or can occur as a result of a brain tumour or brain infection. Swallowing difficulties may also occur in progressive neurological disorders like Parkinson’s Disease or Multiple Sclerosis (MS). In addition, it is also known that respiratory disorders such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) can also impact on an individual’s swallow.
Signs and symptoms that an individual may have a difficulty with their swallow can include the sensation of food sticking in their throat, coughing when they are eating and/or drinking, reduced appetite or difficulty preparing food in the mouth to swallow.
Swallowing difficulties can cause other problems for an individual like unplanned weight loss as a result of malnutrition and repeated chest infections.
It is important to seek the advice of your General Practitioner (GP) if you think you or your loved one has difficulty with their swallow.
In addition, I am happy to provide tailored training programmes to local residential, nursing homes or care agencies on communication and swallowing disorders to help staff provide the best care for residents. Please contact me if you wish to discuss this further.