Special Communication Tips for Stroke Survivors

Updated:Nov 16,2015

Caregivers, find support on our Support Network.

If your loved one has had a stroke, they may be experiencing aphasia.
This is a general term for a variety of communication problems that often follow a stroke. Aphasia can affect a person's ability to speak and to comprehend what others are saying. Dealing with a person who has aphasia can be confusing and frustrating to family members and friends.

Keep in mind that aphasia is a problem with communicating — not with the ability to think or hear. People don’t need to talk louder, just more slowly. Never talk down to the person with aphasia. When your loved one has aphasia, follow the keys to successful listening:

  • Be attentive.
  • Be active.
  • Be patient.

This is an especially important practice for both of you. Learn more about aphasia.

Understanding the Highs and Lows
Your loved one will experience many emotional highs and lows. At first, there's relief that they're a survivor. As your loved one begins to feel a little better, he or she may begin to feel anxious. Stroke survivors often have emotional problems that result from the injury to the brain. They can’t control that. They may be cheerful one minute, sad the next. They can also be withdrawn or indifferent.

These problems are a result of the stroke. Be patient. Give yourself and your loved one time to adjust to the many changes that are taking place. In time, your loved one will likely improve and learn to enjoy life more fully.

Occasionally, however, survivors become severely depressed. If for at least two weeks your loved one shows four or more of the symptoms listed on this page, he or she may be clinically depressed. Talk about what you see, and encourage your loved one to talk with a doctor. If your loved one denies the symptoms or won't contact the doctor, make the contact yourself. Depression generally can be treated effectively with medicine, counseling or both.

  • Depressed mood (despondent, pessimistic about the future, hopelessness, withdrawn)
  • Marked loss of interest or pleasure
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Change in appetite or weight
  • Loss of energy
  • Fearful of activity
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Lack of interest in personal hygiene
  • Lack of interest in sex
  • Anxiety
  • Tearfulness
  • Easily distracted
  • Agitation or restlessness
  • Inability to concentrate, make decisions, remember or comprehend instructions
  • Thoughts of death or suicide
  • Failure to return to work

Take a depression screening test from Mental Health America.

A Special Note for Stroke Caregivers
In addition to the signs of depression listed above, stroke patients often experience a type of depression caused by alterations in brain chemistry during the early stages of stroke recovery. This is a relatively short-term depression, and medication can usually treat it.

Visit the American Stroke Association's website for more information and support about life after stroke.

This content was last reviewed on 12/18/2014.

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