What is left neglect and who does it affect?
Many stroke survivors experience left sided neglect. Some may experience it more extreme than others. Left sided neglect is defined as impaired awareness of stimuli on one side of the body, despite not having any sensory loss to that side of the body. Left sided neglect is a common condition after sustaining an injury to the right hemisphere of the brain. Left sided neglect is a common side affect of a cerebral infarction or haemorrhage.
Does left neglect affect ones independence and safety?
When someone has left sided neglect they may only eat food on the right side of their plate, put make up on their right side of their face, only thread their right arm in a sleeve of a shirt, comb their hair only on the ride side or start writing in the middle of a page. Left sided neglect does not occur because of a vision problem with the left eye but refers to being unaware of of your affected side due to damage to the brain on the right side. Left sided neglect can decrease ones independence and also can be a safety concern.
Left sided neglect can be a safety concern for many reasons. If someone is unaware of their left sided surroundings they may not be able to cross a busy street independently because they will have a hard time recognizing cars coming from the left, they may get their left arm stuck in the wheel of their wheelchair, they may bump in to items on their left side, they may not see a hot stove that is located on their left side and bump into it causing them to burn themselves and so on. Since left neglect can impact ones independence and safety it is very important to address it with your doctor or therapist.
How does one diagnose left neglect?
Either a Speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, neuropsychologists, optometrists, or a neurologists will perform assessments to determine the severity of the left sided neglect. There are multiple assessments that can be used. Some examples are providing a sheet of paper with a circle on it and asking the stroke survivor to draw a clock or giving them a sheet of paper with a bunch of numbers or letters on it and aksing them to cross out a specific number or letter. If the stroke survivor is suffering from left sided neglect many times you will notice them only crossing off letters or numbers on the right side or drawing the numbers of a clock only on the right side of the circle.
Is left neglect treatable?
Left neglect is treatable however, there are many different ways one can go about treating it. The most common way to treat left neglect is forcing the stroke survivor to pay attention to their left side and to utilize their left sided extremities on a daily basis. Some examples would be by placing the stroke survivors night stand on the left side of their bed, placing a clock on the left side of the room, positioning the TV on the left side of the room or placing their dinner plate towards their left side. All of these examples force the stroke survivor to pay attention to their left side.
Constraint induced movement therapy is another way to treat left sided neglect. Constraint induced movement therapy involves constraining movements of the unaffected limb with a sling or mitt for 90% of the day forcing the stroke survivor to use their affected limb for all functional tasks through out the day. Constraint induced movement therapy is usually practiced in a 2-3 week span.
There are many ways to treat left sided neglect but all of the treatments stem from the idea of neuroplasticity. In order to retrain the brain after a stroke, it is important to strengthen the neural pathways that control all of these behaviors and movements by doing repetitive exercises. The more repetitive exercises and movements one does, the stronger the pathways in the brain will become. This is called neuroplasticity.
One way to continue to make progress in strengthening your neural pathways is by using either the Neofect Smart Glove or Smart Board. These products help increase the brain's ability to rewire itself and increase the range of motion and strength in the upper extremities. And the best part is that they do this with fun and engaging games! Neofect’s products can also help with issues with vision and cognition. To learn more about the Smart Board or Smart Glove please call us at 888-623-8984 or email us at email@example.com.
- Becky Alter, OTR/LBecky is an occupational therapist and healthcare content writer based out of Denver, CO.