Stroke cognitive therapy
A stroke is a life-changing experience and stroke patients can often experience significant changes in their ability to understand, to communicate and to think.
Read on to learn more about how cognitive function can be affected following a stroke and to discover how the team at Circle Rehabilitation can help you.
"Cognitive" refers to the ability to think and covers areas such as the ability to solve problems, to communicate, to remember and to understand the surroundings.
A stroke affects the brain, and the nature of where the stroke has caused trauma or damage to the brain determines the extent and type of any cognitive deficits.
Every person is different, and part of the challenge in providing effective stroke cognitive therapy is to tailor treatment to the individual. While an overstretched health service will often struggle to provide such person-specific support, at Circle Rehabilitation we have a multi-disciplinary team of experienced healthcare experts who specialise in helping stroke survivors.
A neuropsychologist and/or Occupational Therapist will need to assess the extent of any loss in cognitive function, and at Circle Rehabilitation this is done by both informal observation and formal assessment.
Informal observation is best described as ‘information gathering’ and is carried out from the time you arrive at Circle Rehabilitation until the time you are discharged, whereas formal assessment, when appropriate, is carried out during specific sessions.
The aim of a formal assessment is to provide our medical team with an initial understanding of any cognitive problems you are experiencing. When deciding how to proceed with informal or formal assessment, the following concepts are considered:
- Orientation: is the patient aware of who they are and where they are?
- Assessment of language capacity: is the patient able to understand what is being said and communicate their needs back? Are there limitations in their understanding or speech?
- Standard screening tools: to assess attention, concentration, visual processing, immediate memory and delayed memory
- Specific cognitive function tests: following the standard screening tools, further specific tests are sometimes required to help develop an accurate picture of cognitive strengths and weaknesses .
Talking to a stranger about such an emotionally-challenging subject as your stroke may feel quite daunting. Our neuropsychologist is there to help support and encourage you emotionally cope with what you’ve been through and to help you regain as much function as possible and will make your sessions as comfortable and welcoming as we can.
The aim of cognitive therapy is to help people who have suffered a stroke to return to the highest level of functioning possible (this level will vary for each individual) or to meet their individual, specific goals, reviewed regularly within the assessment and rehabilitation process.
A neuropsychologist, with the aid of other medical professionals such as physiotherapists, speech and language therapists and occupational therapists, can be of great help in improving cognitive function. Circle Rehabilitation offers a real integration between therapy areas, meaning you won’t need to wait weeks (or months) to be referred to a specialist – we have a full range of experienced medical professionals in-house.
Following informal and formal assessment, you will have a treatment pathway tailored just for you. Recovering from a stroke is a process, one that often takes longer than you would like. It is important to keep in mind the idea of ongoing progression – while you are not likely to recover fully straight away, progression on a regular basis is key, and something to be celebrated. Sometimes, you may not be able to see your own progress, but the team will be there to help guide your understanding of the steps required to meet your goals.
Depending on the cognitive challenges you have, you may be shown specific support strategies to help you manage with certain limitations. This may be things like keeping a diary to help with memory issues or learning new habits to compensate for weaknesses caused by your stroke.
As part of your treatment process, you may be referred for occupational therapy or physiotherapy, where specific work can be done to help retrain your brain to compensate for injury or damage caused by stroke (this is known as neuroplasticity). For some cognitive deficits, you may be referred to a speech and language therapist, who can help you with any speech, language or swallowing issues you may be experiencing.
Cognitive therapy following a stroke is often started while you are an inpatient at Circle Rehabilitation but can continue with community services or as an outpatient at Circle for as long as required. The focus is always on progressing from where you currently are, so treatments and support may change over time as you are re-assessed and new goals set.