If or when a patient can return to work after a stroke is a common, but appropriate, the question for many stroke patients and their loved ones. While a stroke can affect many aspects of your everyday routine, it can also have a severe impact on speech and language — two components of communication that are crucial in a work-related environment.
To help you on your journey of returning to work, we will explain how you can get there and some of the common hurdles to overcome.
Timeline for Going Back to Work After a Stroke
How quickly a stroke patient receives treatment will help improve their overall recovery timeline. This can be as soon as 24 to 48 hours following a stroke. The first three months following a stroke are typically the most important in terms of recovering from long-term effects, such as cognitive impairments; however, improvement following a stroke can be achieved years after the event. One should never feel like it is too late to make improvements in therapy.
After six months, many stroke patients experience a significant improvement in symptoms or are at a point in which they can perform some of the tasks they were able to do prior to the stroke. The process can be slower in other individuals and can take more than six months or several years depending on the severity of the stroke and intensity of treatment received.
Sometimes, at about the sixth-month timepoint post-stroke, a person can begin to discuss the feasibility of returning to work. To gauge readiness, the American Stroke Association created a post-stroke checklist one can complete as a way to assess if an individual is ready to return to work.
Specifically, as it relates to speech therapy, a speech-language pathologist (SLP) will work with you to identify skills and activities that are required to fulfill your professional responsibilities. This information helps the SLP design and implement a custom treatment plan including exercises and personally relevant content relating to your specific professional demands to strengthen those skills and practice using strategies to enable you to perform your day-to-day job.
For example, you may work on managing a team, developing and practicing presentations, creating decks, preparing emails, scheduling and managing tasks, and role-playing conversations. The end goal is to help you optimize your cognitive-communication skills so you can feel competent and confident participating meaningfully at work and can professionally excel.
Can Stroke Victims Recover Speech?
Many factors play a role in determining when or how the speech will recover after a stroke. Each post-stroke recovery situation is uniquely different, although an intensive treatment program combined with social support will positively impact treatment outcomes.
How close you can get to 100% in your recovery and treatment depends on motivation, perseverance, repetition, and intensity of practice. Other factors impacting your ability to return to 100% include the severity of the stroke, age, the timing of rehabilitation, and cooperation from family and friends.
How Speech and Language Are Impacted Following a Stroke
The brain and speech production are uniquely intertwined. Whenever a stroke occurs, the brain temporarily loses its supply of blood and oxygen, which it depends on to function. The brain can only function for a short amount of time without blood supply before damage to the cells is incurred.
When areas of the brain responsible for key communication skills are affected, different aspects of speech and language can be affected. Some people may notice they have difficulty speaking fluently or finding the words they want to say. Others may struggle to understand what people are saying as easily as they used to. Strokes can also impact writing, spelling, and reading comprehension skills, also known as aphasia.
Cognitive communication skills such as memory, attention, reasoning, planning, organizing, and problem-solving can also be disrupted by a stroke and frequently co-occur with aphasia. Weaknesses in these areas can make it hard to listen and interpret information, express information coherently, manage distractions, as well as plan and problem, solve.
As a result, it becomes challenging to participate in conversations, because it is hard to catch important details, hold on to multiple pieces of information, and link and sequence your thoughts to form a clear message. If you are a loved one reading this blog, here is more information on how to communicate with your loved one with aphasia.
Stroke Recovery Speech Exercises
To recover your cognitive communication abilities following a stroke, an SLP will guide you through a series of examinations to provide a comprehensive and in-depth profile of your speech, language, and cognitive-communication skills.
These tests help your clinician determine which areas of your communication have been impacted by the stroke to help them better understand your unique set of strengths and guide them toward developing a treatment plan to help you meet your personal goals.
At Open Lines®, this information is utilized to customize your personal plan of action using a combination of exercises and functional activities to strengthen, rebuild, and retrain old skills. Open Lines®’ SLPs introduce and train strategies to help you prevent and repair communication breakdowns. Your therapist will also provide recommendations for environmental modifications you can make to successfully communicate and participate in important personal or professional activities.
Treatment exercises may include various drills and real-world, functional activities to support efficient word retrieval; script training to improve conversational speech; sentence generation tasks to improve your vocabulary, word retrieval, and sentence structure; or reading and writing exercises to improve reading comprehension and written expression. Functional activities, such as ordering a meal or scheduling and preparing for a meeting will help you regain your confidence with your personal and professional responsibilities.
Speech Therapy Stroke Rehabilitation at Open Lines®
While returning to work after a stroke is a goal for many patients, doing so in an effective and efficient manner is essential to set you up for success. At Open Lines®, we will work with you through all stages of this journey, from identifying your personal strengths and goals to exploring various job descriptions that meet your identified objectives. Our clinicians are there to help you develop specific, achievable action steps in the process of returning to work.
Contact Open Lines® today by phone at (212) 430-6800, by email at [email protected], or through our contact form. If you are ready to take the next steps in your post-stroke journey, request an appointment to discuss your goals and review our service options.