After a Stroke: What Does Recovery Look Like?

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If a loved one has recently suffered a stroke, you may have a lot of questions about their recovery – what might rehabilitation entail, and how much function will they recover. A lot depends on how quickly they received medical help after the stroke, and how extensive the damage was to their system.

The medical care and therapy plan will center around the long-term goal of recovering as much capacity and ability as possible, with as much independence as possible. Here’s an idea of what to expect in terms of post-stroke recovery:

  • Physical therapy and home activities may include learning how to use canes, a wheelchair, or walker; motor-skill exercises to improve coordination and muscle strength; forced-use therapy to improve use of any affected limbs; range-of-motion exercises. Note that if swallowing is an issue, there are motor-skill exercise to help regain this function.
  • Some physical therapy might involve technologies such as robotic devices to help impaired limbs re-learn motion; the application of electricity to severely weakened muscles; a wireless activity monitor; and even virtual reality games and therapies are being used successfully with stroke patients.
  • Therapies for cognitive and communication disorders might include occupational therapy (OT) and speech therapy. OT focuses more on brain processing, problem-solving, and awareness, while a speech therapist helps with speaking, listening, comprehension, and even writing.
  • Emotional adjustment after a stroke can be difficult, so psychotherapy or other counseling may be prescribed. Treatment could also involve antidepressants or other medications to assist with anxiety and alertness. Even if nothing is prescribed in this area, it is a good idea to request a psychological evaluation so you have a baseline if any future issues develop.
  • There are a number of experimental therapies being researched and tested with stroke patients, including brain stimulation, stem cell-based treatments, massage, herbal therapies, acupuncture, oxygen therapy, and cannabinoids such as CBD oils and THC. Some of these are easily available, while others are in testing and would only be available in a clinical trial. If your loved one wants to try any experimental therapies, be sure the doctors are fully aware of it – even massage could affect recovery.

Stroke recovery and rehabilitation typically begins at the hospital. Within 24 hours, a stroke patient often begins some kind of physical or occupational therapy. A complete care plan will be created, which often determines the best setting for rehabilitation – inpatient, outpatient, skilled nursing, or home-based.

The extent and pace of recovery is not predictable. Typically recovered skills and function come at the fastest pace during the first weeks and months after a stroke, but it is also not unusually for strides to continue to be made after a year or more.

As with any traumatic medical event, recovery is significantly affected by social and emotional factors. Let Assisting Hands of Cincinnati help, our nurses work with your family and our home care professionals to ensure the care plan is being followed. We can take your loved one to doctor’s and therapy appointments, help with cooking, cleaning, pet care, and, most importantly, offer compassionate companionship for your recovering loved one.