Communication disorders after stroke in Aboriginal Australians

Elizabeth Armstrong, Edith Cowan University
Deborah Hersh, Edith Cowan University
Colleen Hayward, Edith Cowan University
Joan Fraser, Edith Cowan University

Originally published as: Armstrong, E., Hersh, D., Hayward, C., Fraser, J. (2015). Communication disorders after stroke in Aboriginal Australians in Disability and Rehabilitation, 37(16), 1462-1469. Available here.


Purpose: Limited research exists on acquired communication disorders (ACD) in Aboriginal Australians despite their high rates of stroke. Their uptake of rehabilitation services is low, and little information is available on functional consequences for this population. This pilot study explored consequences of ACD for Aboriginal Australians after stroke, including their experiences of services received. Method: Semi-structured interviews were collected with 13 Aboriginal people with ACD, and family members, in Perth. Ages ranged from 30 to 78 years and time post stroke from 0.5 to 29 years. A qualitative, thematic analysis of interview transcripts was undertaken. Results: The key themes which emerged were "getting on with life", coping with change, independence/interdependence, the importance of communication for maintaining family and community connection, role and identity issues and viewing the stroke consequences within the broader context of co-morbidities. Conclusions: While similar life disruptions were found to those previously reported in the general stroke population, this study highlighted differences, which reflect the particular context of ACD for Aboriginal people and which need to be considered when planning future services. While implications are limited due to small numbers, the findings emphasise the importance of a holistic approach, and integration of communication treatments into community-led social activities.Implications for RehabilitationAboriginal Australians frequently experience a range of concurrent and complex co-morbidities and demanding social or family circumstances at the same time as coping with communication disorders post-stroke.A holistic approach to post stroke rehabilitation may be appropriate with services that accommodate communication disorders, delivered in collaboration with Aboriginal organisations, emphasising positive attitudes and reintegration into community as fully as possible.Communication and yarning are important for maintaining family and community connection and identity, and family and community context should be incorporated into all assessment and treatment activities.