As chair of AphasiaNow I am taking World Stroke Day as an opportunity to encourage social inclusion of people with ‘Aphasia’, the communication disability suffered by 30% of all stroke survivors.
Worldwide, an estimated 5 million people will suffer aphasia this year, with 50,000 cases in the UK alone. Age 41, I became “one of them”. It affected my ability to speak, understand, read, write, and gesture. At a stroke, aphasia ended my career and shattered my dreams.
As someone with aphasia you will find everyday tasks incredibly challenging. At it’s most severe you will be unable to make phone call, write emails, speak to your GP, follow a discussion on TV, let alone understand the radio, or ask for a drink at your local pub. You will be unable to read your grand children a story, or participate in a discussion.
Aphasia is an invisible and very isolating disability, with a devastating impact on your family life, and you will find most of your friends turning away. Your intellect is still intact, and so may be your capacity for decision making: however, for better for worse, it will be in the hands of others to interpret [or not] your wishes.
As a retired Doctor and a former aphasic patient myself, having had poor hospital experiences (both in the USA and UK), I want to appeal to health care professionals about the need for 'aphasia-friendly' sensitive treatment of aphasic patients in their care.
'Aphasia-friendly communication tips', developed by the Aphasia Alliance, are an excellent tool for service providers. It will enable them to make communications better with patients and carers, and by allowing for 'extra time' they will help create a more healing environment, especially at a time when the stroke patient is likely to be be in a state of complete bewilderment.
Please help me in our work with adults living with Aphasia.