Strokes can cause paralysis or weakness on one or both sides of the body. It can also impair a person's ability to see, think, walk, talk, and swallow. Physical and occupational therapy are often recommended after a stroke to help improve ambulation, strength, and balance, while speech therapy is often recommended to improve communication and swallowing ability. Here are some ways a speech pathology professional can help those who have suffered a stroke.

Reduce Choking Risk

Swallowing deficits are common in stroke patients, and the risk for choking is high. A speech pathologist can perform a swallowing examination, typically at the patient's bedside. The swallowing examination can reveal signs of dysphagia, which is the medical term used to describe swallowing problems.

The swallowing evaluation results will also let the physician know if the stroke patient is at risk for aspiration, which can cause aspiration pneumonia. When food is aspirated into the trachea instead of going down the esophagus, choking and lung infections can develop. The speech pathologist can also teach the stroke patient exercises such as chin tucks to help strengthen the throat muscles and facilitate an effective pattern of swallowing. 

Aphasia Assessment

Aphasia may be the result of a stroke, and refers to the inability to speak, understand, and write. A speech pathologist helps the individual with aphasia relearn speech patterns and understand what others are saying, and may also teach the person how to use alternative methods of communication.

The speech pathologist will help ensure that aphasia treatment begins as soon as possible because it may be more effective when implemented soon after a stroke. The pathologist may also lead group therapy sessions for aphasic patients to practice their communication skills with other patients, and implement the use of technology such as computers to help the stroke patient relearn how to form words and relearn sounds.

While speech pathologists are not allowed to prescribe medications for aphasia, they can evaluate the effectiveness of the medications that the physician has prescribed. The speech pathologist can then report his or her findings to the neurologist, who may decide to adjust the dosage, based upon the speech pathologist's recommendations. Drugs commonly prescribed in the management of aphasia help stimulate blood flow and circulation to the brain, which may speed recovery.

If your loved one has suffered a stroke, talk to the physician about how speech pathology services can help. The sooner your loved one is assessed by the speech pathologist, the sooner an effective treatment plan can be implemented. For more information, reach out to companies like Eastern Carolina Ear Nose & Throat-Head.