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Addressing everyday challenges after brain injury

Jordyn Sims Pierce | Traumatic brain injury, Stroke

Do you find yourself asking: Why do everyday tasks have to be so extraordinarily difficult to complete? Here are a few activities that can be affected by stroke, brain injury, or a neurological disorder and some strategies to manage these everyday challenges. 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 Vice President of Clinical Operations & Development for Constant Therapy Health, leading content development, advising on product features, and coordinating internal and external research projects.

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  1. Jean Larsen

    You are a life saving company!!! I have such gratitude for you all. Before we had CT APP my brother a once intelligent attorney and Musican was left with no way to challenge himself and help himself become more proficient at speaking listening and comprehension.

    I have seen a difference in my brother.
    He enjoys better conversation and doesn’t feel as lost.

    I have been so frustrated because I research all of the findings on brain nueroplasticity it ability to repair

    But there is nothing in these 5-10 years being offered to actually DO THIS.

    You can talk about findings of plasticity but giving a practical application is obviously not really happening

    Believe me I search the Internet constantly looking for new ways this science of plasticity is being used.

    CT brings a challenge for my brother and has his interest
    He enjoys it
    And I think we will continue to see results build.
    It is a safe and very convenient way to have a healthy routine of brain stimulation daily.

    I could cry I am so grateful

    Thank you
    And thank you for this news letter with helpful reminders and new information.
    It is so crucial for both my brother and I to read these articles together to better get a larger vision of what is possible

    I also share them with his aide- she also appreciates the expert insight

    Thanks you for coming into our home and bringing renewed hope!!!

    • Constant Therapy

      Thank you so much for your kind words, Jean. Our entire team was so heartened to read your comment. We’re sending all our best to your brother as he works on his recovery.

  2. Lynn Pruitt

    My husband suffered 2 strokes within 2 weeks. (I don’t think he would have had the second had the medical center didn’t make us wait for 4 hours before seeing a Dr) Anyway, the first stroke took his right field of vision. The second took his memory, but that has improved, and his ability to speak correctly and to read. How can I help him with the reading part?

  3. mary n

    i am recovering, but
    have enduring aphasia, impaired spatial reasoning, imoaired executove functioning and impaired working memory.

    this article has been helpful for my family, friends and carers
    to help them understand why and how “simple things” are actually quite complex.

    Could you add in a greater description of how even minor impairments to
    executive function, working memory, spatial reasoning and aphasia
    impinge on the four activities you have selected for this article?

    For example, “Preparing Meals” involves extensive brain work:
    identifying hunger, figuring out what ingredients are available,
    actually making choices/decisions, holding in mind about nutrition,
    keeping track of time, reading lables and instructions,
    juggling distractions (phone, child, doorbell, smartphone alerts, uregent need to go to loo / incontinence) to keep a safe focus on hob/oven to safely prepare meal,
    setting table,
    not tripping/falling whilst carrying dishes to table,
    washing up, putting away leftovers,
    keeping track of things for next grocery shop,
    remembering to check if food in fridge has expired (which requires keeping track of dates too), etc.

    Conscious your articles are written in a style to keep things short and quick to read, but if you could maybe refernece these kinds of challenges too?

    • Constant Therapy

      Hi Mary! Thank you so much for the feedback, we can absolutely go into more detail on this in the future. You’ve provided a great example here of all the challenging tasks and skills involved in what can seem like a simple activity to someone else. Please let us know if there are any other examples you would like to explore more in depth!


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