Post stroke recovery – financial help?!

Post stroke recovery – financial help?!

Strokes can have devastating effects on someone’s life in various ways; it can change your body, your personality, put huge pressure on relationships and there can be a financial impact.  You may need financial help. A stroke might prevent someone from returning back to work or for someone to require carer assistance which comes at a financial cost. At a time where the shock of your world having been turned upside down it’s hard to know who to ask for advice or help and what you’re entitled to.

In this article I will cover a few main benefits, however charities such as the Stroke Association have well advised volunteers who can help you identify what you might be able to apply for or you can contact your local social services for help.

Financial help – Housing benefits

If you are on a low income you may be eligible for financial help with paying all or part of your rent. Housing benefits will be gradually replaced by Universal Credit, so if you make a claim through Universal Credit,  any financial help you would receive will come through the Housing Element of Universal Credit. The amount of Housing Benefit you may receive also depends on your personal and financial circumstances.

What is covered?

  • If you rent a property or room from a private landlord, your maximum Housing Benefit will be calculated with the Local Housing Allowance rules.
  • If you live in council accommodation or other social housing, the most Housing Benefit you can normally get is the same as your ‘eligible’ rent

Eligible rent includes:

  • rent for the accommodation
  • Charges for some services, such as lifts, communal laundry facilities or play areas.

Even if it’s included in your rent, you won’t get any Housing Benefit for:

  • water charges
  • charges for heating, hot water, lighting, or cooking
  • payments for food or fuel in board and lodgings or hostels

 

How do I claim?

  • If you are not working then you can claim housing benefit with employment and support allowance, income support or Jobseekers Allowance, call Jobcentre Plus on 0800 055 6688.
  • If you are claiming pension credit then you can claim housing benefit with this. Call the Pension Service on 0800 991 234.
  • If you are not claiming any of the above than you can get a form for Housing Benefit and Council Tax Support from your local council.

Financial help – NHS Low Income Scheme

If you’re on a low income, this scheme could help you pay for all or some of your health costs. The amount you receive will depend on your household income and outgoings.  The help you are entitled to is also available to your partner.

You could get financial help towards:

  • NHS prescriptions
  • NHS dental treatment
  • sight tests, glasses and contact lenses
  • necessary costs of travel to receive NHS treatment

Who can apply: http://www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/HealthCosts/1136.aspx

How to apply: http://www.nhsbsa.nhs.uk/HealthCosts/1128.aspx

 

Financial help – Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

What is it? If you need extra help because of an illness, disability or mental health condition you could get Personal Independence Payment (PIP)

To be eligible for a PIP, you must be:

  • be aged 16 to 64
  • need help with everyday tasks or getting around
  • have needed this help for 3 months and expect it to need it for another 9 months
  • usually be living in England, Wales or Scotland when you apply
  • have lived in England, Wales or Scotland for at least 2 years

There are exceptions to these rules if you’re terminally ill or in the armed forces

Click here for further details: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/benefits/sick-or-disabled-people-and-carers/pip/help-with-your-pip-claim/how-to-claim/

 

Financial help – Council Tax Reduction

Council Tax Support (or Reduction) is a local discount on your Council Tax bill.  Every council in England has a local scheme for reducing the Council Tax paid by people on low incomes.  The amount of help you’ll receive will depend on which part of the country you live in as each scheme is set locally.

How do I apply? Contact your local council for an application form.

These are just a handful of benefits or financial reductions you may be entitled to. Use the links below to help you investigate further.

Useful links

Benefit Calculator: https://www.gov.uk/benefits-calculators

Government UK: https://www.gov.uk/

Citizen’s advice: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/

Stroke Association: https://www.stroke.org.uk/

Written by Rachel Dines, Speech and Language Therapist

 

How to maximise communication opportunities in everyday life for people with communication difficulties after stroke.

How to maximise communication opportunities in everyday life for people with communication difficulties after stroke.

What is aphasia?

Communication difficulties are common after having a stroke with approximately 1/3 of people experiencing problems1. Difficulties can affect speech production and clarity, known as dysarthria or dyspraxia or the understanding and construction of both spoken or written language, known as aphasia.

Communication is an essential part of everyday life but can be more time consuming and frustrating for the person with a communication difficulty. However, improvement is possible for many people who have communication difficulties, with daily practice of their treatment goals over time. Of particular benefit are using communication strategies that are an integral part day to day activities in the person’s life. While it may be easier for the person to communicate with the people they are closest to, it is also very important for them to continue trying to communicate with other people in their life in support of their independence.

Practical things the family can do to help at home

The following are examples of activities that can assist the person with communication difficulties by giving them the opportunity to practice their verbal communication skills in their everyday life.

  • Answering the door – welcoming visitors to the house or telling cold callers that they are not needed.
  • Buying the paper at the local shop – having a simple conversation with the store keeper is a good way to practice the person’s communication goals.
  • Reading out recipe ingredients and methods to the cook of the house.
  • Answering the mobile phone to known people.
  • Talking about photo’s or articles that friends post on social media sites such as Facebook can also be an excellent source of stimulation.
  • Sending emails to friends or colleagues
  • Paying bills online, reading the instructions and filling in the pages..
  • Videoconferencing with friends or family members who are a long way away with Skype or something similar.
  • Making small talk with acquaintances they know from social groups such as at church, a sports club or at the pub.

People with communication difficulties often are afraid of how these conversational attempts will work for them, which is understandable. Communicating in social circumstances can be intimidating and overwhelming. However, distant friends and acquaintances too can be afraid of having a conversation because they want to help, but don’t know how to.

When things go wrong post stroke

Unfortunately, misguided attempts to help can lead to communication breakdown, and leave the person with the communication difficulty feeling more frustrated and isolated. However, there is a lot that can be done by the person with communication difficulties, their family members and significant others in educating others in how best to communicate to people with communication difficulties.

This information can be very helpful in creating and supporting “communication friendly” communities, which in turn, encourages more people with communication difficulties to feel more comfortable to practice their skills more.

Give these tips to close friends and family members

The following are some examples of things that a family member or close friend can explain and “demystify” for people who don’t know what to do:

  • Speak at a normal speed, not too fast, not too slow
  • Do not talk over the person, address questions or comments directly to them.
  • Be patient and allow the person plenty of time to respond – it may take them longer to process the information and work out their response.
  • Don’t interrupt the person as it can break the pattern of communication.
  • Use short clear sentences – give one piece of information at a time.
  • If the person with communication difficulties has difficulty finding the right word or finishing a sentence, ask them to explain it in a different way. Listen and watch for clues like pointing or writing. Also, pay attention to their body language as they may be gesturing what they are saying. Try not to say the words that you think they might be wanting to say for them.
  • Try to communicate with the person in a conversational way, not question after question (because then it can feel like an interrogation).
  • Use maps, calendars and photos (e.g. family members) to show what you are talking about and encourage the person to communicate in any way he/she can.
  • Have paper and pen available and write down relevant words.
  • If you don’t understand what the person with communication difficulties is saying, then ask them to clarify distant friends and acquaintances and rephrase what you thought they said if necessary. Also, encourage the person to let you know when they have not understood you.
  • Try to laugh together about misunderstandings and mistakes – it can help. Humour can help to bring you closer together, and may relieve the pressure. However, be sensitive to the person and don’t laugh at them.

Download the tips so you can email around the family.
Click Here to Download PDF
Creating and supporting opportunities for people with communication difficulties to communicate effectively in an environment is extremely important for their self-esteem, social interaction and to support their mood. Increasing awareness in the community about “what to do” to support people with communication difficulties is a fundamentally important action that can have a lasting and supportive impact on people with communication difficulties both now and in the future.

If you’re interested in finding out more check out our free tailored 10 part inbox speech and language therapy courses. Designed by our Iris Speaks Experts to help your family on their speech and language journey. Sign up here!

1 National Clinical Guidelines for Stroke (2016) Royal College of Physicians Intercollegiate Stroke Working Party. http://guideline.ssnap.org/2016StrokeGuideline/index.html

Written by Kim Clarke, Speech and Language Therapist

Games to play to help in stroke recovery

Games to play to help in stroke recovery

Let’s play a game!

Although it is important that you practice and carry out all of the exercises given by your speech and language therapist, sometimes it’s nice just to have some fun with your family and friends. It is also important to use language in function, this means using language as you normally would have; so talk to others, attempt to write an email, and try and read the newspaper.  Another way to combine both therapy and daily life is the use of games.  This allows you to spend time as a family or with friends, just as you would have before your stroke, but games can also help you with your recovery.

Here is a list of games which are great for improving language skills and at the same time can be enjoyed by everyone.

Non- verbal communication practice

Charades- this is a great game which is easy for everyone as it’s so well-known and can be played with few or many. Charades is good in many ways; for the ‘actor’ it forces the generation of numerous gestures, this is a great way of encouraging the use of non-verbal communication. The use of gesture can increase word retrieval in individuals or can be used as a way of communicating when someone is unable to verbalise. For the ‘guesser’ this is a great way of someone using different pieces of information to retrieve and name words in specific categories; films, TV programmes, book etc…

Pictionary- this is another classic game which can be played at any age, so even the grandchildren can get involved. This again encourages the use of alternative ways of communicating, which can help when someone is having difficulties retrieving a word or is unable to verbalise.  Another plus, is this game isn’t too demanding on language use so can be played by someone who has quite severe aphasia.

Word description practice

Taboo- This game targets both expressive language and also the understanding of speech.  The idea of the game is the player must describe the word at the top of the card without using the words listed below.   This can very demanding for individuals with expressive language difficulties but it’s great as it encourages someone to use; synonyms, antonyms, size, location, and lots more different types of vocabulary.  This encouragement of word generation can help individuals with word finding difficulties.  For individuals with difficulties understanding speech its good practice in identifying words through language clues.

 Written word practice

Boogle- this is a fun game which practices identifying words within a grid 16 letters.

Scrabble/words with friends- a classic board game or a very popular app on smartphones.  Both have the same concept, constructing words with the letter tiles given to the player.  This is a great way to practice word generation and written word construction. Plus you can play this on your phone and interact with your friends even if they aren’t in the same room as you.

Download and takeaway the ideas to print off.
Click Here to Download PDF

These are just a few suggestions and there are lots of games out there which can combine practicing someone’s language skills as well as having some fun.  So head down to your nearest shop and have a look… who said therapy had to be boring!

If you’re interested in finding out more check out our free tailored 10 part inbox speech and language therapy courses. Designed by our Iris Speaks Experts to help your family on their speech and language journey. Sign up here!

 

Written by Rachel Dines, Adult Speech and Language Therapist

 

 

 

My Dad used to be a corporate high flyer but after a stroke he can’t speak anymore

My Dad used to be a corporate high flyer but after a stroke he can’t speak anymore

“Simone* (not her real name) posted this query on a social networking website. Then she went onto explain that her dad had high blood pressure and didn’t know it, one day he was well and working hard in his busy job in the city, next day he was in hospital after having a stroke on the way to work. He was due to do a big presentation to a large group of people and then felt faint in the taxi and managed to ask to be taken to hospital before he lost consciousness.

After that, it was as though he was completely silenced. He had a little bit of right-sided weakness but otherwise he was able to walk around and do most other things as normal. We had no idea of what it was until the doctor mentioned that he had had a stroke and had something called “Aphasia.” Some people say that these symptoms can resolve in about 24 to 48 hours but although Dad recovered a little bit of his speech after a few days, he was not back to normal!

The next few weeks were a blur with a short stay in hospital, investigations, lots of doctors, a pile of new medications and loads of information leaflets. Dad was discharged home pretty quickly before Christmas and he’s still on the waiting list for community speech therapy in his local NHS service. Although he looks well and is able to walk around as normal, he is struggling to say what he thinks and is starting to get really down about his talking. It’s not just his talking as well, his writing is affected – he just holds the pen but can’t seem to find the words to write down.

My mother, brother and I are at our wit’s end with not knowing what to do for him. There is no way that he can go back to his work right now because he used to be meeting with people, talking and presenting every single day. It’s been devastating to everyone in the family. Every single aspect of our life has been touched by this… Aphasia. What can we do to help him?”

 

Aphasia, or a language impairment that can occur after a stroke or brain injury and can be devastating because in today’s society, for the digital age and the work-place, communication is a critical skill. At any time, there are around 250,000 people in the UK who have aphasia and many of these people will be under retirement age1.

Hidden disabilities

Communication difficulties are often considered hidden disabilities because, they are not as visable as physical or sensory disabilities. Aphasia can affect all aspects of language function such as speaking, listening, reading, writing and even calculation skills. It can be devastating to relationships and self-image as so much of a person’s self-esteem, identity and personality is intimately intertwined with language skills.

The importance of a good social network and family support for someone with Aphasia cannot be underestimated. Emotional support is vital in helping the person with this devastating “silent” disability cope with the impact of the loss of aspects of, or all of their language skills in their life. This loss can impact on everyone in the family, particularly if the person with aphasia was the primary wage earner for the family as described above. Awareness of the impact of this loss on the person with aphasia’s (and their carer’s) mental health is also very important.

Fortunately, there is quite a lot that can be done to support someone with aphasia to improve their ability to communicate and support their mental health.

Services to access

The most important first step for this family to take is to try and get the support of a HCPC registered Speech and Language Therapist. A range of services exist, from the NHS to the private sector. Families should also be aware that they it is permitted to them to access private services whilst on a waiting list for their local NHS services. Help for finding services is available from the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists and the Association of Speech and Language Therapists in Private practice. A Speech and Language therapist with specialism in stroke and aphasia can help shape their treatment goals into steps that can assist to maximise recovery, guide realistic expectations and help create a social environment that can support the person’s ability to communicate using all means available to them. The Speech and Language therapist can also provide emotional support and counselling related to communication which is invaluable for the person with aphasia and their loved ones. Support can also be provided by the Speech and Language therapist through liaison with the GP to arrange treatment for mental health problems that can arise related to the communication disability such as depression or anxiety.

Goal setting

Many aphasia clinical guidelines indicate that highly frequent practice of language skills (such as 45 minutes per day) in targeted activities are useful in regaining language function for those who can tolerate it. Whilst for many people with aphasia most of the spontaneous natural recovery occurs in the first 12 months, many guidelines have indicated that continued gains can be made in the longer-term particularly when the person with aphasia is motivated and able to participate in increased intensity of treatment. Preliminary goal setting should happen first to assist the therapist in choosing the right assessment tools to help the person with aphasia to achieve their realistic and meaningful treatment goals.

Treatment options for aphasia are often longer-term depending on the nature of the person’s needs, the severity of their communication issues and the availablity of people to support them. Treatment can include face-to-face as well as technology based treatments. Often a combination of the two are very beneficial in supporting the person with aphasia to achieve a more intensive treatment approach. Adult children of people with aphasia, who may be more technically savvy than their parents, are ideally placed to help their parents. From the set-up of their computer with the Speech and Language therapist recommended software and apps or just to support them in general to increase their familiarity with the technology.

Family and friends can also help to create a supportive environment to enable the person with aphasia to communicate successfully through:

  • using short clear sentences – give one piece of information at a time
  • don’t rush – allow time for the person to take in what you are saying
  • be patient – give the person with aphasia space to respond at their own pace
  • encourage the person to communicate in any way he/she can
  • encourage the person to let you know when they have not understood
  • clarify – and rephrase when necessary

 

In the longer-term however, it may not be possible for the person with aphasia to return to all of their previous function and roles depending on the nature and extent of their communication disability. However, with a supportive environment, their ability to create communication (through the use of gesture, technology, photos, writing, drawing, reading and speaking) can be amazing!

If you’re interested in finding out more check out our free tailored 10 part inbox speech and language therapy courses. Designed by our Iris Speaks Experts to help your family on their speech and language journey. Sign up here!

We’ve put together 9 tips for highflying stroke survivors and their families – a must see!
Click Here to Download PDF

1 The Stroke Association, 2008.

Written by Kim Clarke, Speech and Language Therapist

Finding help and support after a stroke

Finding help and support after a stroke

David, 67, was a retired mechanical engineer, who lived alone. He had his stroke in September 2016, and was seen for speech and language therapy for 7 months. His stroke left him with no speech, but he was able to understand what people said.

David and his speech and language therapist spent a long time working together on alternative ways of communicating. David took a shine to the use of his iPad as a way of communicating with others. He used the app ‘Predictable’ and also would use the internet and pictures to reduce the barrier of no speech.

David used to go to the football every Saturday to watch his beloved Chelsea, he didn’t feel confident enough to do this, as he would be seeing familiar faces, and having to communicate in such a different way. He did not feel ready to do this, even though this was a big part of his life he missed.

His speech therapist suggested his local stroke communication group, David went along and 9 months later goes every week, and reports back to the group how Chelsea played the previous Saturday. David attended the group and after 4 months of increasing his confidence and having positive interactions with his peers using his iPad and having their support, he returned back to watching football.

Getting back to a new normal post stroke

When all of the NHS therapy appointments have stopped and you’re trying to adjust back to some sort of normality, it can feel like your world has become very small. Having a communication difficulty following a stroke can make interacting with the world around you seem impossible. Feeling like this is not unusual and can cause you to question what your future will look like.

Adjusting to your new situation is difficult for yourself and the loved ones around you. This takes time and involves the courage to accept what has happened and to look forward. What you need to remember is you are not alone and you can go out, meet new people and enjoy the aspects of life you once used to.

Although you have had your friends and family around you, supporting you through your recovery, living with a communication difficulty is hard to understand unless you’ve been through it yourself.  This is why accessing local stroke groups in your area is a great way to seek support from someone who can relate to what you have been through and is a great way of building up your confidence to get back out doing what you enjoy.

What groups are there?

The two main organisations in the U.K that provide groups are ‘The Stroke Association’ and ‘Headway’ but there are also locally formed groups in your area. Depending on your local area will depend on what types of groups are available to you.

Stroke Association- www.stroke.org.uk

The Stroke Association is the UK’s leading stroke charity and is a vital resource for anyone who has had a stroke. The website offers support in understanding what a stroke is and the affects is causes along with a directory of groups. The stroke association offers different types of groups; long-term support, stroke clubs and communication groups. All of these groups allow someone to meet individuals who have also survived a stroke and for them to share their story. These groups give someone the time to build up their confidence in a safe environment and slowly integrate back into society at their own pace. The communication groups are a particularly a great supportive space for someone to adjust to any communication difficulties they are having and to practice any new communication strategies they have been given.

Headway- www.headway.org.uk

This is a UK wide brain injury charity and has branches and groups around the country. There website is another great resource with lots of information and guidance on living with a brain injury and what other support is out there to access. Headways services are open to anyone with a brain injury and depending on your local branch they can offer a range of services; support groups, help with returning to work, support with volunteering opportunities and even exercise groups. All of these services allow someone to return to some normality in their life but at the same time with support, knowledge and advice.

Importance of socialising to recovery

Trying to return to some normality after a stroke can be difficult, scary and daunting. Accessing groups as suggested above will allow someone to take that first step but with a little bit of support.

We’ve put together 12 things carers should know after a stroke in takeaway PDF for you

Click Here to Download

Good Luck!

If you’re interested in finding out more check out our free tailored 10 part inbox speech and language therapy courses. Designed by our Iris Speaks Experts to help your family on their speech and language journey. Sign up here!

Written by Rachel Dines, Adult Speech and Language Therapist

 

The Future of Aphasia Treatment

The Future of Aphasia Treatment

Aphasia, or a language impairment that can occur after a stroke, head injury or with dementia can be devastating because of difficulties with thinking of the names of things, understanding conversation, reading and writing. The effect of communication difficulties can be far-reaching and can impact on every aspect of the person’s life. This is including the ability to communicate with friends and family in a social setting as well as the ability to use the telephone or to work.

Treatment for aphasia typically involves many outpatient appointments either one to one or in a group in a hospital or clinic environment with a Speech and Language Therapist. However, recent best practice clinical guidelines recommend the use of computer based treatments (under the guidance of a Speech and Language Therapist) as a means of improving the consequences of aphasia1,2,3.

Aphasia Treatment looks ahead

Good news though is that for people with aphasia even years after their stroke, with targeted and focused treatment, or impairment can make significant improvements in their language skills. 1,2,3

So, it’s never too late to start with treatment for those who are willing and able to tolerate it!

So… what are the treatments that can be available on the computer or smart tablet?

Computer therapy can vary from exercises to increase the amount of time spent using language skills. Many guidelines indicate that regular and frequent practice of language skills in targeted activities are useful in regaining function. Computer based exercises are useful to keep attention and motivation going because they are often interactive and can be used to complement traditional Speech and Language Therapy.

Tracking your progress outside therapy sessions

There are also a number of computer based treatment packages that can be tailored by your Speech and Language Therapist to specifically meet your needs. When you do these treatments then a report of your performance goes back to your speech and language therapist who can adjust the therapy goals to stretch you just to the right level to encourage use of these skills appropriately.

Computers, iPads, tablets or smart-phones can also be used to practice communication strategies such as email or using videoconferencing (such as Skype) with loved ones. These meaningful communication opportunities are particularly important because communication impairments can lead to reduced confidence, social isolation and depression. Speech and Language Therapy using a wide array of mobile communication technologies can also be far more motivating than traditional pen and paper exercises.

A list of app reviews can be found here.

We’ve put together our top 10 Iris Speaks Apps in this PDF for you to takeaway with you!
Click Here to Download

City University and EVA Park Virtual World

For those of you who are interested in interactive gaming there is also a developing research base of using interactive computer programs to give people access to virtual worlds in which to practice their communication skills in a safe and unthreatening way. A current research study called EVA Park has had initial results which have demonstrated significant improvement for people with long-term aphasia after stroke in both the ability to communicate in everyday life as well as improvement of their reported quality of life. A link to the initial results page can be found here.

Online Speech and Language Therapy

Finally, there is an emerging market of Speech and Language Therapy services in the UK available on-line. This modality of providing Speech and Language Therapy services is well established in the USA and in Australia, and has been found to be as effective as traditional face to face therapy. The added-bonus of this form of treatment is that it can be conducted in the comfort of your own home with your computer and you do not need to go to a hospital or clinic. More and more health services are becoming available on-line and Speech and Language Therapy is no exception!

If you’re interested in finding out more check out our free tailored 10 part inbox speech and language therapy courses. Designed by our Iris Speaks Experts to help your family on their speech and language journey. Sign up here!

Written by Kim Clarke, Speech and Language Therapist

  1. Cochrane Library Speech and language therapy for aphasia following stroke (2016)
  2. Speech and Language Therapy concise guideline – Royal College of Physicians clinical guidelines for stroke (2016)
  3. Australian Aphasia Rehabilitation Guidelines (2014)