New Queensland research tackles social isolation in stroke survivors

February 07, 2024

Queensland researchers are developing a new tool to reduce social isolation for survivors of stroke living with aphasia by making communication with loved ones easier.

The team, led by Dr Jade Dignam from The University of Queensland, received a Stroke Foundation grant to develop a package that will make text messaging easier for people living with communication difficulties, which affect around one third of survivors of stroke.

Dr Dignam says texting is one of the most common communication technologies used by Australians to manage their health and daily life activities and to connect socially but can be difficult for people living with aphasia.

"People with aphasia face significant and disproportionate barriers to text messaging due to deficits post-stroke. Communication difficulties can include reading and spelling difficulties that are often combined with cognitive, visual, psychological and motor deficits.”

The research team, including collaborators from UQ’s Queensland Aphasia Research Centre and Metro North Health’s Surgical Treatment and Rehabilitation Service, received $79,416 from the Stroke Foundation as part of the foundation’s 2023 Research Grants program.

Dr Dignam’s research will investigate what skills are required for successful text messaging and how training can be provided for adults with post-stroke aphasia.

The team will partner with people with aphasia, family members, allied health professionals and technology experts to develop a comprehensive package involving training materials and therapy resources to support effective communication via text messaging.

The aim is to enable and empower people living with aphasia to successfully communicate, connect and complete daily activities via text message. 

“Accessible technology enables communication, which is a basic human right,” Dr Dignam said.

“For people with aphasia, text messaging offers opportunities for social connection with friends, community and family, expressing affection, seeking support and managing health appointments and life administration appointments.”

Stroke Foundation Executive Director of Stroke Services and Research, Dr Tope Adepoyibi, says this research will go a long way in improving the lives of people with aphasia.

“Aphasia impacts a great proportion of the stroke community. We are proud to support research that enhances the lives of people with aphasia, and ensures they remain connected to the community.”