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Addressing everyday challenges after brain injury

Jordyn Sims Pierce | Apr 9, 2021 | Traumatic brain injury, Stroke, Aphasia, Communication disorders

After a stroke or brain injury, suddenly everyday tasks can become extraordinarily difficult to complete. Here are a few activities that can be affected by a stroke or brain injury, and some strategies to manage these difficulties. As you read on, remember that every person is different! Something that might be easy for one survivor might be extremely difficult for another. You may even find that various things become easier over time. Regardless of where you may be on the spectrum, these tips and tricks are intended to offer you additional daily supports as you navigate your recovery journey. 

1) Ordering at a Coffee Shop

Why it’s difficult

  • Ordering at a coffee shop requires money management (whether you’re using cash or a credit card), reading skills to comprehend the menu, auditory comprehension skills to understand any questions the cashier might ask, and verbal skills to state your order.

Tips and Tricks

  • If you’re comfortable, share with the cashier that you are a stroke or brain injury survivor. This will help them to understand that you might need a little extra time to complete your order.
  • Self-advocate by asking the cashier to speak slowly so you can better understand them.
  • Practice your order before you get to the counter, or before you even get to the coffee shop!

Constant Therapy activities that might help

2) Talking on the Phone

Why it’s difficult

  • Talking on the phone requires that you be able to focus only on what you’re hearing through the phone (this can be difficult after a stroke or brain injury!), auditory comprehension skills to understand what the other person is saying, and verbal skills to communicate your own thoughts. We also get a lot of information and support for our comprehension through people’s facial expressions, so not being able to see the person you’re talking to can add to the challenge.

Tips and Tricks

  • If you’re having a hard time with phone calls, try FaceTime, Zoom, or another video conference app to catch up with family or friends! Real-time video will give you facial cues you might miss if you were only using audio from a phone. Make sure you stick to one person at a time though. Crowded video chats can be really difficult for anyone with attention or comprehension challenges.

Constant Therapy activities that might help

3) Managing Appointments

Why it’s difficult

  • Balancing a calendar is challenging at baseline, but when you add in the attention and memory challenges that many stroke and brain injury survivors face, you may find this activity especially difficult. From visually interpreting and comprehending the calendar, to just remembering when you need to be where, managing your appointments can feel like no small feat. Especially with the additional medical appointments many stroke and brain injury survivors need to juggle.

Tips and Tricks

  • Come up with a consistent place that you record your appointments, whether that’s your phone or a paper-based agenda book. Keep that calendar with you at all times, and make sure to review it each morning. As soon as you get a new appointment, write it down!

Constant Therapy activities that might help

4) Preparing Meals

Why it’s difficult

  • To successfully make a meal you need to be able to focus on the meal preparation, which can be difficult given the attention difficulties that many stroke and brain injury survivors deal with. Additionally, reading comprehension challenges and difficulties related to reading labels on boxes and jars, can make following recipes difficult. 

Tips and Tricks

  • Check off the steps to your meal preparation as you go! This is a great exercise for reading comprehension, but will also help you stay on track and organized as you cook.

Constant Therapy activities that might help

“I always remind my patients who have had a stroke or brain injury that first and foremost, something traumatic happened to your brain, so your body is going to need time to rest and recover.”

Additionally, encountering struggles and challenges throughout your day related to tasks that once felt simple is incredibly frustrating and in turn exhausting, so you’re going to feel tired. Finally, a brain injury or stroke is not just physically and mentally taxing. These types of injuries are life changing and can take a major emotional toll. Give yourself permission to rest and recover. Seek out support, whether it’s from family and friends, fellow survivors, or mental health professionals. Having other people to lean on when challenges arise is key to any recovery process. 

Jordyn is a practicing Speech-language Pathologist and Assistive Technology Specialist and is the Director of Pierce Speech, Language, and Learning Center.  She also is the Director of Clinical Operations for Constant Therapy Health, leading content development, advising on product features, and coordinating internal and external research projects.

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