October 31, 2014

Dysarthria is More Than a Slip of the Tongue

I had a stroke in the brain stem which connects the brain to the spinal cord. My stroke attacked a part of the brain stem that is the bridge to the cerebellum which controls coordination.  The inability to coordinate muscles of my lips, cheeks, and tongue made my speech severely slurred (dysarthria).  The good news is that I never lost the ability to understand what people were saying.  The bad news is that people could not understand me. 

Incoordination of my diaphragm, which controls breathing, also made speaking difficult.  To speak you have to let your breath out slowly.  At first I exhaled explosively in one big gasp.  I had to repeatedly take extra breaths to finish even one sentence.  I gradually regained the ability to say more before running out of breath.  It is still tiring to speak in a group because I have to take many deep breaths to be heard.  Thankfully people never have trouble understanding me on the telephone.  I speak into an ear bud so I never have to raise my voice which requires more air.

My dysarthria has never fully disappeared.  When I am tired my speech is still somewhat slurred.
I know this because people start staring at my mouth start saying "What?" after I speak.  Then I have to remind myself to take a full breathe because I am speaking too softly.  I asked for help in the grocery store last night.  The woman who helped me scowled and looked at me like I was retarded.  After she left, I realized I was incomprehensible because I was speaking so softly.

October 5, 2014

Memory Aids Have to Be in My Face

When I forgot to pick up a friend who has a brain injury I felt guilty.  She blamed herself because she thought she had remembered the wrong date.  This painful experience taught me that memory aids have to be in my face.  I can repeatedly ignore reminders sitting in an out of the way place.  Now I use classic memory aids in some unusual ways.

The current month sits on my kitchen table where I eat breakfast.  I used to highlight important events, but the page of bright colors was distracting by the end of the month.  Now I use 2 colored tabs to mark important dates and move the tabs when the events are over.  I fold the page for each month in half and put future months in a napkin holder.  Every piece of paper is stuffed in it's respective month.  The arrow is pointing to a month that has a postcard from my dentist reminding me to make an appointment.  I got that postcard six weeks ago.  If I had put the postcard on my kitchen counter, who knows where it would be now.  
 
I also keep sticky Post-It notes and a pen every where I sit so I can write notes and stick them on my shirt.  If I leave the note on my shirt too long it falls off when I walk.  When that happens I stop what I am doing and do what is written on the note.

A word of caution about memory aids.  What helps one person remember does not make a bit of sense to another person.  The memory aids I use are only examples that may help you discover memory aids that work for you.  There are also lots of places that meet the "where you sit down every day" criteria.  Negotiate with your family to find a prominent place that you can put your memory aids. It requires others to adjust to a few changes, but they will appreciate your improved memory.  Readers of my blog have said how organized I am.  I fooled you.