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Welsh language support essential for stroke survivors

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Stroke survivors who speak Welsh should get an equal opportunity to rebuild their life, according to The Stroke Association.

The charity is pledging to meet the needs of more Welsh-speaking stroke survivors with the launch of their new Welsh Language policy. Providing health care services in the language of someone’s choice has been long recognised as important to their care and for stroke survivors can be vital for recovery.

Arnot Hughes, 74 from Llandaff, Cardiff had a stroke in February 2020, just before the coronavirus pandemic forced a national lockdown. He left hospital after 10 days with a common post-stroke communication difficulty called aphasia, “I could not speak at all when I left hospital. I had six weeks of speech and language therapy online but this was only available in English and was not enough. I am bilingual but Welsh is what I speak day-to-day. I made more rapid progress with my English because of the online zoom sessions, but I struggled to speak Welsh with my family.

“It was only the perseverance of my wife which has enabled me to start speaking Welsh. The hospital told me no Welsh language offer was available so it was her research that helped me in my recovery. We practice as a family but it would have been so much more beneficial to have speech and language therapy in Welsh. Perseverance is definitely the key and I can see the improvements I have made but it has been very difficult.”

Arnot helped initiate the grŵp paned a sgwrs, which was recently set up as part of the Stroke Associations’ Community Steps project.  It is an informal peer support chat group for people across Wales who want to converse through the Welsh language.

Arnot said, “It is good to be able to speak to my peers in Welsh and have the opportunity to practice my daily Welsh conversation with other stroke survivors who have had a similar experience to myself and will hopefully help others who want to communicate more in Welsh with their recovery as well.”

The Stroke Association offers a number of services in the Welsh language including, information, the online stroke information tool “My Stroke Guide” and the Stroke helpline also offers a call back service with a Welsh speaker.

Katie Chappelle, Associate Director for Wales said, “The Stroke Association is committed to providing the highest level of service to everyone who speaks and reads Welsh. We are proud of our presence in Wales, and of our Welsh-speaking stroke survivors, volunteers and staff.  The Welsh Language is a well-established part of the rich tapestry of Wales and we understand for those who speak Welsh, it is a central part of their life and an important part of the culture and community.  We believe everyone deserves to live the best life they can after stroke. For Welsh speakers, we know that this means supporting you in your language of choice. That’s why we are working to increase and build on the support we can already offer through the medium of Welsh.”

Aled Roberts, the Welsh Language Commissioner said, “It’s been a privilege supporting Stroke Cymru develop their CynnigCymraeg, our new policy which aims to better promote Welsh language service to the public. We believe that stroke survivors deserve to receive their health care through the medium of Welsh, if that’s their chosen language. We welcome the fact that Stroke Cymru recognises that language shouldn’t be a choice, but a right for first language Welsh speakers.”