Most people are aware that a stroke can affect you physically, but stroke can also cause difficulties that are harder to see. After a stroke, you may have difficulty with your memory, your attention, with making decisions and with understanding.
Thirty-five to 44 percent of stroke survivors find themselves with cognitive impairments for a short time after their strokes. About a third of these people experience impairments for a longer time.
If a stoke survivor has cognition issues, try the following:
- Use internal memory strategies or spaced retrieval training to solidify memories
- Practice tasks that are difficult, while offering support, to build independence
- Use external strategies for improving memory (e.g. memory books, smartphone apps)
- Try strategies to strengthen executive functioning (e.g. “plan, do, review”)
- Establishing routines and schedules
- Use exercises or software to retrain discrete cognitive processes such as attention (see below)
- Lumosity (visitors have free but limited access to online courses).
- SharpBrains have a list online teasers and games categorized under memory, attention, language, etc.
- BrainHQ from PositScience offer some free brain games when you resister, but mostly sells their standalone programs.
- CogniFit offers free online games that you fully unlock for $19.95/month.
- If you are an AARP member, go to their Staying Sharp website to explore articles, games, and recipes that promote brain health.
- If you have an iPad, you can buy the Spaced Retrieval TherAppy app ($4.99), which works on improving memory of names, facts, and routines.
- Dakim Brain Fitness uses vibrant imagery, videos, music, humor, storytelling to work on long-term memory, short-term memory, language, computation, visuo-spatial orientation and critical thinking.
- If you are on the computer often, you can use free electronic calendars with alarm reminders. They can be used not only for appointments but "things to do" as well. Examples are Google Calendar or Yahoo Calendar,
- Play Concentration-like games on your phone or tablet.
Even if a stroke survivor has no cognitive deficits, using the "Mind drives movement" manta, they can use mental practice to improve physical deficits. Mental practice is a approach in which an individual repetitively rehearses a physical skill using only their mind. Like common strategies known as “visualization” and “imagery,” mental practice triggers the brain’s motor, sensory, and perception centers just like when performing a physical task.
For an interesting discussion about this training strategy, see Using the Mind to Reclaim Movement. Mental practice is most often presented by listening to audio recordings (like these) that capture what it looks like and feels like to perform an activity. The listener follows along by imagining their body performing a task in a relaxed and self-reflective state of mind.