Great Britain

Creating new connections - how technology is helping stroke survivors with aphasia

AS many as 350,000 stroke survivors with aphasia, a common communication disability, are at greater risk of becoming lonelier and more isolated during the pandemic, according to the Stroke Association.

While people across the UK have been able to keep in touch with their loved ones thanks to technology, the charity is now highlighting the struggle that stroke survivors with aphasia face getting online.

Aphasia is a language and communication disorder, of which stroke is the most common cause. There are 1.2 million stroke survivors’ in the UK and around a third (33%) have aphasia. Aphasia can affect a person’s ability to speak, read, write - and sometimes understand speech and use numbers. Aphasia affects language, and not intellect.

Janet Rockcliffe, 61 from Kendal, has been living with aphasia for 26 years, after she survived a stroke.

She said: “Aphasia has impacted my life in every way. It can be isolating and frustrating. I think people still are not aware about aphasia and how it can affect people differently.

“Even during a normal day my communication can change due to fatigue. I find it easier to communicate in the morning.

Technology has been a crucial part of Janet’s recovery. “I use the internet constantly and I have found it to be a lifeline,” she said.

“Before my stroke I was comfortable using computers but after my stroke my computer skills were destroyed.

"Family and adult college helped me to get online back online. It took a long time to build up to using the computer by myself.

“I am using technology more during lockdown to keep in touch with family. We are doing this by video calling each other regularly. It helps to see someone’s face as it makes it easier to communicate. With a video you can see the person’s expressions and if you can’t find the right word you can always show it.

“I would like to encourage people with aphasia and their families to get online. It could make a big difference in your life. When you first start you will might need support from your family or friends and it takes time to learn any new skill.

“Don’t be afraid to ask for help or for something to be repeated, that is the best way to learn. My tip would be to work through each section slowly. Don’t try to do everything at once.”

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