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Stroke support was a 'life saver'

28 May 08 11:11 GMT

Most stroke patients struggling with communication problems receive little support, the Stroke Association says, despite groups available to help them.

One carer, Julia Hilder, explains how her husband was helped by the association after his stroke left him almost speechless.

John Hilder suffered a heart attack in December 2002, followed almost immediately by a stroke while he was in hospital.

"It took all his speech away and in the morning all he could say was 'yes' and 'no'," says Julia, 66.

Mr Hilder had aphasia - communication problems caused by damage to the brain - which is very common in stroke patients and can severely impact on quality of life.

Mr Hilder received some speech therapy in hospital, "but we were not told that he had aphasia and nobody would give us a prognosis".

"In hospital the speech and language therapist was great and gave us some leaflets, but when he was discharged there was no speech and language therapy."

They were, however, told about a communication support group in a neighbouring town.

The only drawback is that it takes an hour to get from their home in Bude, Cornwall to the group in Bideford, and she would prefer to have one closer.

Despite the travel time, Mr Hilder and his wife have been attending it once a week for the past five years.

John, now 65, has benefitted in various ways.

"It's a very, very sociable group," says Julia, "and the stimulation is wonderful for him, as well as being able to help others in the same situation as he is."

The group is focussed on conversation skills, with discussion exercises prompted by newspaper articles, and there are also outings to the theatre and lunches.

"It has made him more determined to progress," Mrs Hilder says.

"His communication was pretty minimal at first, but now it's pretty good. He does have blockages though - where the words are in there, but he just can't get them out."

Frustration

Initially he was unable to categorise to words, such as knowing that blue was a colour and a dog was an animal, but he continues to improve.

"There's a lot of frustration, he used to be a big talker. You have to give him time to assimilate what you say and then the response is slower as his brain works through the words," Julia says.

She has also been helped, describing the group as "a life-saver".

"It gave me the only two and a half hours I had during the week to myself. I also go on all the trips with the group and have met the other carers there.

"This gives me the opportunity to meet with other people in the same situation as me and discuss our shared experiences."

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