Aphasia is a devastating language disorder that affects a person’s ability to talk, read, write or understand the spoken word. It is usually acquired after a neurological event such as a stroke, and often results in chronic communication difficulties.
People living with aphasia have higher risk of developing mental health problems, compared to stroke survivors without aphasia.
Researchers from the Centre for Research Excellence in Aphasia Recovery and Rehabilitation have identified ways to optimise the psychological care available to people with post-stroke aphasia.
Lead researcher, Dr Caroline Baker, and her team worked with clinicians to understand their views on providing stepped psychological care – a staged approach to the delivery of psychological support, therapies and triaging to mental health specialists. Each stage, from least to most intensive therapy, matches the individual with aphasia’s psychological needs during rehabilitation.
Clinicians reported that their own knowledge, skills and attitudes about communication and psychological supports have the most impact on their ability to provide effective care.
“Some health professionals reported that they did not know enough about communicating with someone with aphasia, which impeded their ability to manage the stepped care approach,” says Dr Baker. “The lack of appropriate physical spaces for counselling and social interactions on hospital wards and accessible resources, such as communication aids, that would aid care were also barriers.”
Stroke health professionals also identified possible solutions to overcome these barriers.
“Specialist training, inclusion of mental health specialists on stroke teams, communication support and tools, leadership support, and funding for resources could help them improve psychological care,” says Dr Baker. “For example, tablets such as iPads could enable better communication between clinician and patient.”
Dr Baker hopes these findings will help people with aphasia, families, stroke health professionals, health managers and policy developers to improve psychological care in aphasia rehabilitation and, with it, individuals’ stroke rehabilitation outcomes.
“It’s essential that psychological care is effectively integrated into stroke rehabilitation for people with aphasia. We are passionate about promoting care that will enhance the wellbeing of people living with aphasia across rural and metropolitan Australia.”
Read the paper.