Post stroke: Addressing thinking and memory problems

stroke occupational therapy

A stroke can disrupt your ability to think clearly and can cause problems with your memory, attention, and organizational abilities. Both speech and occupational therapists work with people to improve these areas and to develop strategies to compensate for problems— for example, using cue cards and detailed lists or simplifying daily routines.

Coping with spatial neglect. One fairly common effect of stroke is called "neglect." This is a lack of awareness of one side of the body and the space around that side of the body. The left side is more commonly affected than the right. If you have neglect, you may bump into things on your left without noticing them, shave or apply makeup only on the right side of your face, or eat food on only the right side of your plate.

If you have this problem, occupational and speech therapists will cue you to look frequently toward your neglected side and then teach you to cue yourself. One example: A red line down the left margin of the page you are reading may help remind you to look all the way to the marker so you see all the words on that line. A variety of software programs and games can also help train people to pay attention to the things on the neglected side. Caregivers and family members can help by setting important objects (food, writing implements) on the person's neglected side to train him or her to focus more on that side. Prism glasses— which are shaped in a way that changes the focus point of your eyes—can be helpful to shift your view more toward the neglected side.

To learn more about strokes and how they can affect you, read Stroke: Diagnosing, treating, and recovering from a "brain attack", a Special Health Report from Harvard Medical School.

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