Ballarat region plays key role in aphasia research

Stroke Foundation

Australian researchers are one step closer to developing a program to improve the quality of life for thousands of Australian survivors of stroke who live with aphasia – a debilitating communication disability.

Researchers from La Trobe University and Grampians Health-Ballarat will soon start phase two of an aphasia group research program that will measure changes in quality of life, confidence, community engagement and psychological wellbeing. This significant phase of the research project will take place in Grampians Health-Ballarat Community Rehabilitation Centre this year.

It is one of five that have been announced as part of the 2023 Stroke Foundation Research Grants. Since 2008, the program has awarded more the $6 million to more than 200 researchers.

Aphasia is a communication disability resulting from damage to language processing networks in the brain and impacts 30 per cent, around 140,000, Australian survivors of stroke. It affects a person’s ability to communicate, to participate in life roles and responsibilities, and can negatively impact overall health and wellbeing.

Principal Investigator and research affiliate in the Centre for Research Excellence in Aphasia Recovery and Rehabilitation at La Trobe University, Dr Lucette Lanyon, says this research aims to address gaps in current stroke practices.

“People with aphasia and their significant others report serious challenges in accessing appropriate community-based services that support long-term, self-management. They are significantly more likely to experience depression and isolation than any other subgroup within the stroke population.”

To combat this, Dr Lanyon’s research team has developed a Community Aphasia Group, Hub-and-Spoke model which involves volunteers, with and without aphasia, who are trained and supported by allied and mental health clinicians to facilitate Community Aphasia Groups.

“The volunteer facilitators form the spokes and the clinicians form the hub. Together they deliver specialist support groups for members with aphasia which focus on building new community-based connections and learning to live well with aphasia.”

Stroke Foundation Interim Chief Executive Officer, Dr Lisa Murphy, says this is a significant step forward for survivors living with aphasia.

“This research will go a long way in addressing serious challenges and hurdles faced by survivors living with aphasia and will allow survivors of stroke with aphasia to establish and maintain meaningful community connections.”

“It’s a pleasure to be able to support research that we know is going to improve quality of life and address gaps in the system.” Dr Murphy said.

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