Thinking and Perception

Stroke can affect your thinking skills or cognition. This can include problems with:

  • Orientation – not knowing what day it is, as well as not knowing where you are and who the people around you are
  • Short term memory – not remembering things that happened recently
  • Attention – having a short attention span and being easily distracted
  • Problem solving – having trouble solving a problem, which requires memory, planning and the ability to make decisions
  • Planning and sequencing  – being  unable to start a task because you don’t know where to begin or doing things in the wrong order
  • Judgement ­– making choices that don’t make sense, or make you unsafe or uncomfortable
  • Insight – having difficulty understanding your abilities and limitations.

Being tired, emotional or stressed can make it harder to think clearly. Busy or noisy environments can make it hard too.

Researchers used to believe the brain pathways were fixed or unchangeable. This meant if a function was performed by a certain area of the brain, it could only be performed by that area. They believed any damage that wasn't repaired within a few months would be permanent. However research now indicates the brain has the ability to change. This is called neuroplasticity and it has a big impact on our cognitive recovery after stroke.

Talk to your doctor if you are having difficulties with your thinking. An occupational therapist or neuropsychologist can assess you to determine your specific problems and suggest things that can help. Simple strategies such as keeping a diary, using a medication manager or phone alarms can help. Limit noise and other distractions when you are trying to concentrate. Enlist the help or family and friends. Most importantly, make time to rest and relax – recovery is hard work.

A stroke can affect your thinking.

Recovering from stroke

The brain can recover from damage.

This is called neuroplasticity.

An occupational therapist or neuropsychologist can help you improve your thinking

You might have trouble with your memory.

You can do simple things like:
  • keep a diary
  • use a medication manager 
  • set alarms to remind you to do things

Recovery is hard work!

Ask family and friends for help.

Most importantly, make time to rest and relax.

Common ‘thinking’ problems

Orientation

You do not know what day it is.

You do not know where you are.

You do not recognise the people around you.

Short-term memory

You forget things that happened recently.

Attention

You are easily distracted

You might have trouble finishing things.

Problem solving

You have trouble thinking of solutions

You may get frustrated

You might need help

Planning and sequencing

You have trouble getting started on something.

This is because you don’t know where to start. You may do things in the wrong order

Judgement

You may do things that don’t make sense, or make you unsafe or uncomfortable.

Insight

You may have trouble understanding your abilities and limitations.

Busy or noisy environments can make it hard to think clearly.

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