Things to Do After a Stroke

man suffering a stroke

Emergency medical treatment is critical after a stroke to stabilize your condition before starting rehabilitation. It’s equally essential for your team of therapy specialists to initiate the rehabilitation process early to regain lost function.

It’s the perfect time for you or your loved one (preferably your primary care partner) to educate yourselves and ask the available specialists questions to help you understand the rehabilitation and recovery process.

You need to know details about your condition and treatment plan, such as which part of your brain the stroke impacted, where to go for additional therapy, what to do after leaving the hospital, and what dietary and lifestyle changes to make moving forward to aid rehabilitation and recovery. The recovery process is complex, and education is a crucial first step to allow for the best possible outcomes.

What to Do After a Stroke

Planning, preparation, and empowerment are essential to help survivors recover after a stroke.

stroke symptoms BEFAST

1. Learn the Warning Signs and Risk Factors of Another Stroke

A survivor’s risk of suffering another stroke is 15 times higher than the general population within the first three months following a stroke. Hence, it’s crucial to learn the warning signs, easiest to remember with the acronym BE-FAST:

B: balance lost

E: eyes blurry or double vision

F: facial drooping

A: arm or leg weakness

S: slurred speech or unable to speak

T: Time is critical – call 911immediately

You also need to understand your risk factors — for example, atherosclerosis, diabetes, and high blood pressure – and how to manage them.

2. Go for Therapy

The largest change in recovery often occurs during the first three months following a stroke. You may continue to see positive changes towards recovery even years later with the proper therapy. During this recovery window, the brain is naturally capable of reorganization or neuroplasticity, so it’s critical to participate in your therapy recovery program.

3. Ask Your Medical Team for Next Steps After Leaving the Hospital

Stroke survivors often end up in one of four places after leaving the hospital: an inpatient rehab facility, home, an outpatient clinic, or a skilled nursing facility. An inpatient therapy facility offers unparalleled rehab compared with the other options. The efficacy and intensity of therapy provided in these facilities allow survivors to maximize their recovery within the first three months.

4. Modify Your Home for Ease of Accessibility and to Prevent Falls

Have a physical or occupational therapist do a home evaluation to suggest modification recommendations (for example, grab bars, handrails, or non-slip mats) to ensure your safety.

This CDC brochure “Check for Safety” is a helpful resource.

5. Explore Home Therapy Options and Keep Up with Your Exercises

When you go home, explore therapy options and tools to help sustain your recovery, and continue doing your exercises. Since every stroke is different and there’s no definitive blanket approach to rehabilitation, you can experiment with various therapies to find one that’s best for you. However, remember that consistency is key and realize that you may not see immediate changes. For example, a strengthening program may require adherence for up to six weeks before seeing gains.

6. Measure Your Progress

It helps to measure your progress, functional gains (such as daily activities, mobility, and communication skills), and rate of improvement. Inpatient rehab facilities use the QI (quality indicator) for rating progress.  The Patient Specific Functional Scale is a self-reported functional scale that is an easy way for people to track their progress toward their goals after experiencing a stroke.

7. Monitor Changes in Attitude and Behavior

As a care partner, you should constantly monitor a stroke survivor’s emotional changes to prevent them from slipping into post-stroke depression. Consult a healthcare provider and develop a plan of action.

8. Prepare for the Long Haul

Anticipate a different journey from other stroke survivors because factors like age, general health, availability of resources, the belief in recovery, the amount of support from others, and the time and energy you spend on your rehabilitation program all affect your recovery. 

9. Join a Support Group and Invest in Psychological Care

Stroke support groups provide education and fellowship with other survivors and caregivers who understand your situation and how to cope with it. They can also offer suggestions, resources, friendship, and social opportunities. If you cannot find one in your area, you are free to join online groups like our Long Beach Stroke Support Association meetings  most Tuesdays.

Rehabilitation for stroke survivors is crucial after a stroke. The best practices can allow you to take all the rights steps after a stroke and ensure the highest recovery possible.

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