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What to Do After a Stroke: 8 Tips Every Patient Must Know

13 tips on what to do after a stroke to start things off on the right foot

Many survivors and caregivers find themselves wondering what to do after stroke, as this can be a confusing, life-altering event. The bottom line is that the stroke recovery process is complex. This makes education a crucial first step towards healing and recovery.

Survivors can experience a wide array of secondary effects depending on the type of stroke and area of the brain affected. For this reason, it is vital to work closely with your doctors and therapy team to stay informed and create an effective recovery plan.

To assist you on the road to recovery, this article will help you better understand what to do after a stroke. We will review different questions you can ask your providers as well as tips to boost your recovery and reduce the risk of a second stroke. We hope we can provide clarity and confidence for stroke survivors and their caregivers through education.

Questions to Ask the Experts After a Stroke

Immediately after a stroke, emergency medical treatment is necessary to stabilize your medical condition. Once a survivor is stable, rehabilitation begins. During the initial time in the hospital, a team of therapy specialists will start the rehabilitation process to help survivors regain lost function.

This is the time to educate and empower yourself by asking the available specialists any questions you may have. Educating yourself is your greatest tool and will allow you to better understand what to do after a stroke.

Questions for your medical team:

  • What part of my brain was impacted by the stroke? 
    To start, ask your neurologist which area of the brain was affected by the stroke. For example, if the stroke affected the language center of the brain, you may experience speech difficulties like aphasia. Or, if the motor cortex was affected, survivors may experience paralysis after stroke.
  • Where should I go after the hospital? 
    Your rehabilitation team is generally comprised of your hospital doctor, physical therapist, occupational therapist, and speech therapist, as well as a social worker. They will work together to provide options for your best care after discharge from the hospital. They will likely recommend additional care in inpatient rehabilitation, a long-term care facility, home health, or outpatient rehabilitation.
  • Do I need to make any dietary changes? 
    Healthy dietary choices improve your body’s ability to heal and provide energy for the recovery process. A dietitian can provide education and personalized dietary advice, suggesting foods that are known to help stroke recovery. Additionally, some survivors may have difficulty swallowing after stroke. Ask your speech therapist about recommended foods and skills to practice to improve your swallowing.

This list is far from complete, so don’t be afraid to ask any other questions you may have. Your healthcare team is here to help, and it is better to ask than not know. Try writing down any questions you think of so you can remember them when you talk with your doctor or other healthcare staff.

Aside from asking critical questions, there are additional steps you can take to continue the recovery process when you leave the hospital. In the next section, we will review our best tips on what to do after a stroke.

Tips on What to Do After a Stroke

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to stroke recovery. Every survivor is unique and so is every stroke. Therefore, everyone’s journey will look different, and it will take time to figure out what works best for you. To help you find your rhythm, let’s review 8 tips on what do to after a stroke.

1. Therapy, therapy, therapy!

Dedicated rehabilitative exercise is one of the most important pieces of the stroke recovery puzzle. Since survivors often experience movement impairments after stroke, such as hemiplegia or hemiparesis, rehab is crucial. Your physical, occupational, and speech therapists will provide exercise guidance to help you recover from your specific secondary effects.

Often, spontaneous recovery is responsible for rapid gains in function during the first 3-6 months after stroke. This means that the brain is naturally healing itself through the process of neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity can be increased with attention to the affected side and high repetition of the rehab exercises provided by your therapy team.

It’s important to take advantage of the initial “recovery window” by actively participating in your physical, occupational, and speech therapy programs. However, improvement can continue after this stage, well into the chronic phase of recovery.

See a list of 12 rehab exercises you can do at home »

2. Inpatient rehabilitation

The benefits of inpatient therapy are unparalleled, and this is a valuable tool to help survivors regain function after stroke. Researchers conclude that the efficacy and intensity of inpatient therapy is one of the reasons stroke survivors may recover more during the first 3 months. This intensive therapy allows survivors to capitalize on spontaneous recovery and this period of heightened rewiring in the brain.

After discharge from the hospital, survivors generally transfer to one of three places: a skilled nursing facility, an inpatient rehab facility, or their home. This decision is based on the survivor’s current level of function, rehab potential, and living situation. To qualify for inpatient rehabilitation, an individual must be able to participate in at least 3 hours of therapy a day. Otherwise, they can transfer to a skilled nursing facility to gain the strength required to tolerate additional hours of therapy.

If you or your loved one can actively participate in inpatient therapy, do your best to pursue this option. It will send a message that you want to take charge of your recovery. The gains you make in inpatient rehab will make a difference in your independence, daily activities, and quality of life later.

3. Reduce your risk of a second stroke

During the first 3 months after stroke, a survivor’s risk of having a second stroke is 15 times greater than the general population. Therefore, it’s important to know the warning signs of stroke. These can include facial drooping, arm weakness, slurred speech, vertigo, sudden dizziness, changes in vision, or a severe headache. Education and awareness of these warning signs are crucial for timely treatment if another stroke occurs.

Understanding the warning signs of a stroke is a step in the right direction but taking action toward prevention is just as important. Some stroke risk factors are uncontrollable, like heredity or age. However, many stroke risk factors are manageable through certain lifestyle changes. 

For example, high blood pressure and atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) can be improved with a healthy diet. Making healthy changes, such as adopting the Mediterranean diet, can decrease your risk of stroke. Additionally, daily exercise is an excellent way to reduce cardiovascular risk.

4. Embrace your unique journey

Every stroke is different.” You’ll hear this saying often during the recovery process because the brain is extremely complex. As we discussed earlier, the side effects of stroke vary greatly from person to person. As a result, every person will recover at a different pace and have a different stroke recovery timeline.

Studies show that a survivor’s level of recovery is based on multiple factors. These factors include age, general health, amount of support from others, belief in recovery, and dedication to a targeted exercise program. This is why it is critical to work closely with your team of experts from the first day of recovery. They can help you understand your unique side effects and tailor your recovery plan accordingly.

While knowing that every journey is different may not help you know exactly what to do after a stroke, it does provide the freedom to follow your own unique path. Continue to research various stroke rehabilitation techniques to find the ones that work best for you.

5. Modify your home to help prevent falls

Another important thing to do after stroke is to ask a physical or occupational therapist to complete a home evaluation. They can provide expert home modification recommendations to maximize your safety and independence. This will allow you to participate in your hobbies or activities of daily living with greater confidence.

For example, your therapists may recommend safety precautions like installing grab bars and handrails, adding non-slip mats to the shower, and removing rugs or other tripping hazards. Your therapists can suggest additional adaptive equipment to help with activities in your home as well as exercise equipment to use with your home program.

6. Keep up with your rehab exercises

One of the most important things to do after stroke — and never stop doing until you’ve reached your fullest recovery — is rehab exercise. Rehab exercise helps rewire the brain and improve mobility long-term. When patients fail to do rehab exercises, their mobility may deteriorate and they will likely experience a regression in function after stroke. To avoid backsliding, keep up with rehab consistently.

After discharge from inpatient therapy, therapists usually send patients home with a written sheet of exercises to do on their own. These exercise programs generally contain valuable exercises but often have low compliance rates. This means patients are not getting adequate therapy at home in many cases.

This is where home therapy tools can help fill in the gap. Devices like Flint Rehab’s FitMi home therapy can help motivate survivors to participate in high repetitions of daily rehab. As a result, many survivors see improvement within weeks of using the device.

See reviews for FitMi home therapy »

7. Prioritize mental health

Another type of therapy that often goes overlooked is psychotherapy, or “talk therapy.” Many stroke survivors struggle with depression and anxiety for a variety of reasons. Sometimes this is because of physical changes in the brain, such as a basal ganglia stroke. Other reasons include changes in independence, financial strain, fear of another stroke, or post-stroke grief.

Depression and anxiety can decrease your ability to motivate yourself for recovery, which also decreases your energy during rehabilitation. Psychological care is important for a holistic approach to stroke recovery and can help you get back to enjoying the activities you love.

8. Join a support group (for survivors and caregivers)

Support groups provide fellowship with other stroke survivors who understand exactly what you’re going through. A support group can offer suggestions, resources, social opportunities, and friendship. Support groups are available through the ASA’s support group finder. If you can’t find any in your area, you can also join an online group.

Knowing What to Do After a Stroke

After experiencing a stroke, you may be left wondering what steps to take next and how to achieve the best recovery. While there isn’t a perfect roadmap for stroke rehabilitation, there are resources available to help you make educated decisions. Ask questions and rely on your healthcare team as you navigate the post-stroke journey. They can explain your available options and help you decide on your next steps.

There are many things you can do after a stroke to maximize your outcome. This includes participating in inpatient rehabilitation, staying consistent with your rehab exercises, and modifying your home to increase your safety. Additionally, it is important to prioritize mental health and practice healthy habits to reduce your risk of a second stroke.

Once you have an idea of what to do after a stroke, take action. The different tips we’ve discussed in this article can help you take steps to ensure the highest recovery possible for you or your loved one. Above all else, set motivating goals and stay dedicated to a consistent rehabilitation program.

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You're on a Roll: Read More Popular Recovery Articles

You’re Really on a Roll! See how Jerry is regaining movement with FitMi home therapy

My husband is getting better and better!

“My name is Monica Davis but the person who is using the FitMi is my husband, Jerry. I first came across FitMi on Facebook. I pondered it for nearly a year. In that time, he had PT, OT and Speech therapy, as well as vision therapy.

I got a little more serious about ordering the FitMi when that all ended 7 months after his stroke. I wish I hadn’t waited to order it. He enjoys it and it is quite a workout!

He loves it when he levels up and gets WOO HOOs! It is a wonderful product! His stroke has affected his left side. Quick medical attention, therapy and FitMi have helped him tremendously!”

Monica & Jerry’s FitMi review

What are these “WOO HOOs” about?

FitMi is like your own personal therapist encouraging you to accomplish the high repetition of exercise needed to improve.

When you beat your high score or unlock a new exercise, FitMi provides a little “woo hoo!” as auditory feedback. It’s oddly satisfying and helps motivate you to keep up the great work.

In Jerry’s photo below, you can see him with the FitMi pucks below his feet for one of the leg exercises:

FitMi is beloved by survivors and used in America’s top rehab clinics

Many therapists recommend using FitMi at home between outpatient therapy visits and they are amazed by how much faster patients improve when using it.

It’s no surprise why over 14,000 OTs voted for FitMi as “Best of Show” at the annual AOTA conference; and why the #1 rehabilitation hospital in America, Shirley Ryan Ability Lab, uses FitMi with their patients.

This award-winning home therapy device is the perfect way to continue recovery from home. Read more stories and reviews by clicking the button below: