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Speech Therapy Research Study Seeks People Who’ve Experienced a Stroke

12 free speech therapy sessions can help people regain confidence and independence

 

Eight years ago, at age 57, Claude Oldcorn experienced a stroke that, in just hours, stole his ability to walk, read and write. He was a retired grain farmer one day and, one day later, he was living with paralysis of his right side.

 

The stroke also took away his ability to talk. It turned the world upside down for Oldcorn and his wife of 41 years, Darlene, who live in Lorette. The two had travelled extensively and enjoyed motorcycle trips together and there were still places that both of them wanted to see.

 

“Claude had a massive stroke,” Darlene said. “It was a miracle he lived through it.”

 

She started supporting her husband at therapy appointments and she found a speech therapist who was willing to work with them to help Claude communicate again.

 

“Speech therapy helped Claude to get back into life. When you don’t have your words anymore you have to communicate in a different way without words,” Darlene said. “Speech therapy helped in every stage of his progress.”

 

Initially the Oldcorns saw the speech therapist every week and then gradually every other week. Every day they spent time on homework designed specifically for Claude based on what he wanted to improve. Homework involves a lot of repetition to retrain people’s brains. It usually includes work on a computer to make the work more interesting and fun. With the effort he and Darlene invested, gradually Claude started improving and finding different ways to communicate.

 

“Claude is a geography major. He uses his atlas to show me the street of a place he’s thinking about. If he wants to reminisce about a motorcycle ride he can show me with his finger,” Darlene said. These days they’re visiting speech therapist Allison Baird at Speechworks Inc. in Winnipeg every three to four months when they notice Claude has advanced and is ready for more therapy.

 

Baird asked the Oldcorns to participate in a research study that is also open to residents of the Interlake-Eastern RHA who have experienced a stroke. They are receiving 12 free speech therapy sessions via MBTelehealth. The purpose of the study is to evaluate the effectiveness of face-to-face speech therapy compared to therapy delivered long-distance via MBTelehealth. Most health care facilities in Interlake-Eastern RHA offer a MBTelehealth link that allows a health care provider and their client to talk and see each other on a TV screen via a secure link. According to Baird, meeting via MBTelehealth is preferable to driving to Winnipeg to see a health care provider.

 

“There are huge issues around access to speech therapy simply because therapists are not in the community. Telehealth puts us in the community,” Baird said. “I believe this study will provide much-needed evidence about the effectiveness of speech and language therapy provided via Telehealth.”

 

To participate, people must;

  • have experienced a stroke one to 20 years ago
  • be living with a communication disorder as a result of stroke, such as the inability to speak or difficulty finding words or reading
  • be a resident of rural Manitoba and be able to attend 12 weekly appointments

 

Participants in the study will be randomly assigned to receive their 12 sessions at either face-to-face appointments in Winnipeg or via MBTelehealth. Baird has been using MBTelehealth successfully to reach patients in communities that otherwise don’t have access to speech therapy services.

 

“I have learned to engage clients who are 1,000 miles away from me via telehealth. Our sessions are efforts to help people realize how to use communication skills remaining after a stroke to function in the world. We also train people’s partners on how to draw out remaining abilities post stroke,” Baird said. “The worst thing you can do after a stroke is stay in your home or your room. You have to get out and try! We provide the supportive environment to help you keep moving forward with your life.”

 

Baird and the Oldcorns encourage everyone who has experienced a stroke to apply to participate in the study, regardless of the severity of the stroke they experienced.

 

“When someone has a stroke like Claude’s, it takes away independence and confidence. Speech therapy gave these back to Claude,” Darlene said. “When his confidence returned, his posture improved and he became more engaged in conversation. Every time Claude has speech therapy, something good happens.”

 

Funding for the study is provided through the joint support of the Heart and Stroke Foundation Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery and the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada. SpeechWorks Inc. has partnered with the Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care in Toronto in the delivery of this research study.

 

For more information, contact Allison Baird, president, Speechworks Inc., (204) 231-2165 or visit www.speechworks.ca.

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