After a stroke, cognitive rehabilitation can aid the mind just as physical therapy aids the body, according to Psych Central, an online mental health and psychology network. A stroke damages the brain and creates cognition problems primarily related to language--a condition known as aphasia--as well as attention, memory and vision. Recovery of language and other cognitive skills can be a long and slow process, but improvement is possible over time.
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The purpose of cognitive therapy is to improve damaged mental abilities and language skills caused by a stroke. According to Stroke Rehab Online, exercises are determined by the extent of brain injury and which parts of the brain were affected. Another aspect of cognitive therapy involves psychological counseling for stroke survivors who often find themselves wrestling with confusion, frustration, anger and negativity. Such patients frequently become clinically depressed and are treated accordingly, with talk therapy and sometimes medication.
Aphasia and Language Skills
MayoClinic.com defines aphasia as difficulty in expressing or understanding verbal or written language. Aphasia often occurs when a person suffers a stoke. A big part of cognitive rehabilitation involves exercises for aphasia. For example, a simple speech-language exercise would ask a stroke survivor to name objects in the room. A more advanced version of that exercise would require the stroke survivor to explain the purpose of those objects.
Additional Cognititve Exercises
MayoClinic.com cites additional examples of cognitive therapy exercises. A stroke survivor may learn to point to a board with pictures and words in order to communicate. A group of stroke survivors may practice starting conversations with each other, taking turns speaking and resolving misunderstandings in the conversation. Group outings to grocery stores or restaurants give patients a chance to use cognitive skills in real life situations. A stroke survivor may relearn word sounds and verbs through computer-assisted therapy.
Research into Cognitive Therapy
The Psych Central website notes that researchers at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and the University of South Alabama analyzed data from several hundred 2000 and 2005 studies of cognitive rehabilitation. The researchers concluded patients should be treated as soon as possible after a stroke; even stroke patients aged 55 and older may benefit from cognitive therapy; and therapists should focus on skills training in specific cognitive areas such as attention or visuospatial processing--seeing spatial relationships among objects--rather than taking a non-targeted approach.
Rehabilitation for stroke survivors is an ongoing process involving the patient, health professionals and the patient's family. According to the Medical University of South Carolina Health, it takes time to regain lost functions after a stroke, although functions can return in many cases. A key is to begin rehabilitation, including cognitive therapy, as soon as possible after the stroke. Family members play an important part as well, providing vital support during rehabilitation.