What to Expect After a Stroke: 15 Tips to Navigate the Road to Recovery

what to expect after a stroke

If you feel lost or confused about what to expect after stroke, look no further. This article will explain some of the most important concepts for both patients and caregivers.

What to Expect After a Stroke

The stroke recovery process is different for every patient because every stroke is unique. After analyzing the data, we boiled down the best advice on what to expect after a stroke into these 15 tips:

1. Ask your neurologist about the location of your stroke

neurologist with brain scans discussing what to expect after a stroke

The location of your stroke has big implications on the stroke side effects you may experience. For example, when stroke occurs in the language center of the brain, it may result in language difficulties like aphasia. Knowing where the stroke occurred can help you create an action plan for recovery.

2. Don’t compare your recovery to others

Every stroke is different which makes every recovery different as well. Expect your stroke recovery timeline to be unique. Generally speaking, the larger the stroke, the longer it may take to recover the side effects. Being consistent with rehabilitation can give you the best chance at a speedy recovery.

3. Focus on neuroplasticity during all stages of recovery

When part of the brain is damaged by stroke, it’s possible to get healthy parts of the brain to take over. This process is known as neuroplasticity, the brain’s innate ability to rewire itself and form new neural connections. Rewiring the brain through neuroplasticity is how you will regain function after stroke.

4. Use repetition to heal your brain

brain with neuroplasticity after a stroke

To activate neuroplasticity, your brain need consistent, repetitive stimulation. Researchers call it “massed practice,” which helps reinforce new neural pathways in the brain. The more repetitions you practice of physical therapy exercises, for example, the better your brain will get at controlling your affected muscles.

5. Take advantage of the first 3 months of rapid improvement

You can expect the fastest gains to occur during the first 3 months of stroke recovery while the brain is in a heightened state of plasticity. After the 3 month plateau, recovery may slow down but it will not stop if you continue with consistent rehabilitation.

6. Don’t lose hope after small setbacks

graph showing what to expect after a stroke and plateau

Ups and downs are normal during stroke recovery and you should expect them. Progress isn’t linear. Sometimes post stroke symptoms get worse before they get better, so don’t give up. If you experience any rapid declines in progress, though, seek emergency medical attention.

8. Pick things right back up after long breaks

If you stop rehabilitation, know that you can pick it back up at any point. We have seen patients as far as 24-years post-stroke continue with recovery! No matter how long it has been since your stroke, there’s always hope for recovery – even if decades have gone by.

Going Home After a Stroke: What to Expect

Finally, there are several other things you should expect after stroke when going home.

9. Work with an OT to prevent falls by modifying the home

stroke patient at home

Many stroke survivors have trouble with balance, which increases the risk of devastating falls. To prevent falls, make appropriate home modifications for stroke patients, including grab rails and slip-resistant mats. Your occupational therapist (OT) will also have suggestions for adapting the home after stroke.

10 Caregivers, don’t do everything for your loved one

When stroke patients are discharged from the hospital or inpatient rehabilitation, family members may be overly anxious to help their loved ones. Try not to do too much. Be helpful and encouraging, but understand that stroke survivors need to do some things on their own to keep recovering.

11. Get plenty of brain-rejuvenating sleep

After stroke, the brain is busy healing and rewiring itself. This takes a lot of energy! So when stroke patients crave lots of sleep after stroke, let them sleep! The brain needs to recover.

12. Keep distractions to a minimum

Keeping the television and talk radio on in the background can actually be very draining to a stroke survivor. Try to keep distractions to a minimum, and be patient.

13. Don’t let recovery stop when insurance stops

man exercising at home expecting recovery after stroke

Once therapists cannot find “measurable signs of progress” in the clinic, insurance will likely end coverage. Don’t let this be the end of recovery. By stepping up your at-home therapy regimen with stroke rehab tools that encourage daily movement, you can keep improving. Recovery only stops when you stop.

14. Experiment with different therapies

Physical and occupational therapists often make excellent recommendations for outside or at-home treatments, so check with your PTs and OTs first. If they don’t offer anything exciting, then explore other supplementary stroke treatment options like electrical stimulation, mental practice, and even acupuncture.

15. Strive for a full recovery

If your stroke was mild, then your chances of a full recovery are high. For massive stroke survivors, there’s still hope for a high recovery if you keep pursuing rehabilitation with consistency.

And that concludes our list of what to expect after a stroke. We hope that it helps prepare you for the road to recovery.