If you’re a stroke survivor, you may have heard limiting statements such as, “you’ll stop recovering past the two year mark.” But this simply isn’t true.
Recovery is possible at any age and any stage post-stroke. Recent research is finally starting to catch up to this idea.
If you’re worried that it’s been too long since your stroke to keep recovering, then prepare to make a paradigm shift today.
Because the truth is that it doesn’t matter if it’s been decades since you stopped pursuing rehab. Your brain is always capable of changing and healing at any age.
Your Brain Is Changing Your Entire Life Based on What You Practice
Studies have shown that your brain is changing throughout your entire life through neuroplasticity, the mechanism that allows your brain to rewire itself.
Neuroplasticity is activated through practice. Whenever you practice something, your brain becomes engaged and starts to grow and adapt itself to get better at the task.
For example, London taxi drivers who have learned to navigate 25,000 streets have more brain cells growing in the part of their brain that is related to knowledge of maps.
Similarly, medical students who have been studying for a medical exam have changes in their brain the areas that control memory retrieval and learning.
These studies prove that your brain changes and grows in related areas whenever you practice something.
Recover from Stroke Through Practice
For stroke survivors, this means that it doesn’t matter if it’s been two months or two decades since your stroke. Practice can spark new changes in your brain whenever you start to put in the work.
Practice is the essence of stroke recovery. It can restore many stroke side effects, such as impaired memory or difficulty moving your arm or leg.
This is why cognitive rehabilitation exercises help with memory and why physical therapy exercises help with movement. Whatever you practice – from talking to walking to remembering – is what you get better at.
You can restore many abilities after stroke through practice, practice, practice.
There’s a smidge of bad news, though, but it shouldn’t stop you from pursuing recovery:
Age and Your Brain’s Ability to Change
As you get older, your brain’s ability to change slows down. It takes more practice in order to produce the same changes in the brain.
But don’t let your brain’s negative bias cling to this information and forget all the rest! Instead, focus on the great news here: Your brain is still capable of changing as you age. It’s capable of changing for your entire life!
Don’t short-change yourself by assuming that it’s “too late” to pick rehab back up or that it’s been “too long” since your stroke and there’s no hope. Recent research shows that the brain is capable of improving through all stages of recovery, including the late stages.
There is tons of hope for stroke survivors of all ages, stages, and impairment levels. All you need is a dedicated practice and your brain will start to change for the better.
Still need some convincing?
A Stroke Survivor’s Example of Hope
One of our rehab tools, MusicGlove, is a hand therapy device that helps improve hand function by motivating lots of repetition (i.e. lots of practice).
We had a patient try the device 24-years post stroke. She wasn’t sure if it could help her so “late in the game,” but she wanted to try it anyway. And guess what? Even after two and a half decades post-stroke, she improved her hand function significantly!
She put in the work, and the brain responded. While not everyone can achieve “significant” improvements decades after stroke, we hope this story proves that there’s hope.
You’ll never know what you can achieve until you try. We hope this stroke survivor story has inspired you to keep going and start again.
Recovery Never Stops
Your brain changes based on whatever you practice, and these changes are possible at any age and any stage post-stroke.
Even if you took a long break from rehab, you can still pick things back up and see results – even decades after stroke. Never give up and keep practicing!
PS. If you want an extra does of motivation, check out our book Healing & Happiness After Stroke. It’s a stroke survivor’s guide to emotional healing and motivation during recovery.