Do you find yourself wondering what to do after a stroke? The recovery process is complex, which makes education a crucial first step.
Stroke recovery is time-sensitive, meaning that proper action in the beginning can help save time and effort later on. To help with this, you’re about to discover a checklist of things every stroke survivor and caregiver should do or know.
We hope this actionable guide helps provide clarity and confidence on the road to recovery.
Questions to Ask the Experts After a Stroke
Immediately after stroke, emergency medical treatment is necessary to stop the stroke and begin rehabilitation. During this initial time in the hospital, you will work with a team of specialists to help you recover.
You can take advantage of this time by asking the available specialists as many questions as possible. Here are some recommendations:
- What part of my brain was impacted by the stroke? Ask your neurologist. You can get a better idea of which stroke side effects may occur by knowing which area of the brain was damaged by the stroke. For example, if the stroke affected the language center of the brain, then the patient may anticipate language difficulties on the road to recovery.
- Where should I go after the hospital? Ask your physiatrist for recommendations. They will know whether your need extra care in a long-term acute care hospital or inpatient rehabilitation. Furthermore, they may have personal recommendations on the best facilities in your area. If they don’t, check out this checklist from Medicare.
- Do I need to make any dietary changes? Ask your dietitian. Some strokes are caused by poor dietary choices. Your dietitian is a great person to ask for dietary advice, like whether or not it’s safe to consume red wine, a foods that’s known to help stroke recovery for some, but not all.
Aside from asking critical questions, there are other steps you can take to keep recovery going after your time in the hospital.
Best Tips on What to Do After a Stroke
Planning and preparation are key if you want to recover from stroke as quickly as possible. As you or your loved one are leaving the hospital after stroke, be sure to keep your bases covered.
Here’s a checklist of best practices when it comes to stroke recovery:
1. Know the warning signs of another stroke
During the first 3 months after stroke, a patient’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: facial drooping, arm weakness, slurred speech, vertigo, sudden dizziness, or splitting headache. Memorizing these symptoms should be first thing patients and caregivers do after a stroke.
2. Understand your stroke risk factors and manage them appropriately
Understanding the warning signs of a stroke is a step in the right direction, but taking action towards prevention is even better. Some stroke risk factors are uncontrollable, like heredity or age. Luckily, many stroke risk factors are manageable.
For example, high blood pressure and atherosclerosis — two dangerous stroke risk factors — can both be improved with a healthy diet. This is why dietitians are an integral part of your initial rehabilitation team.
3. Therapy, therapy, therapy!
Another phenomenon happens during the first 3 months after stroke: spontaneous recovery. This means that the brain is rapidly healing itself, and recovery happens the quickest during this time.
Therefore, it’s important to take advantage of this “recovery window” by participating in as much therapy as possible. Most commonly, this could include physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy.
4. Ask the medical team where you’ll go after the hospital
After the hospital, patients are sent to one of 3 possible places: home, inpatient rehab facility, or a skilled nursing facility.
In order to qualify for inpatient rehabilitation, a patient must be able to participate in at least 3.5 hours of therapy a day. Patients that cannot do this are often sent to skilled nursing facilities.
5. Insist on inpatient rehabilitation
The quality of inpatient therapy is unparalleled to most other options. In fact, researchers argue that the efficacy of inpatient therapy is another reason why stroke patients recovery rapidly during the first 3 months.
If you believe your loved one can participate in inpatient therapy, contrary to an expert’s opinion, do your best to insist on the option. It could make a huge difference in recovery and quality of life later on.
6. Anticipate a journey that looks different from others
“Every stroke is different.” You’ll hear this saying often during the recovery process, because it’s true. The brain is extremely complex, and the side effects of stroke vary greatly from person to person.
This is why it’s critical to work closely with your team of experts early on. They can help you understand your unique side effects and tailor your recovery plan accordingly.
7. Modify the home to help prevent falls
Another important thing to do after stroke is ask an occupational therapist to complete a home evaluation. They can provide expert home modification recommendations to ensure your health and safety.
Your OT may recommend some extra safety precautions like installing grab bars and handrails, adding non-slip mats to the shower, and suggesting helpful core and balance exercises.
8. Keep up with your rehab exercises
One of the most important things to do after stroke — and never stop doing until you’re 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 cause a regression. To avoid backsliding, keep up with rehab on a consistent basis.
9. Explore home therapy options after discharge
After discharge from inpatient therapy, therapists usually send patients home with a written sheet of exercises to do on their own. These sheets of exercises have low compliance rates, which means that patients are not getting adequate therapy at home.
This is where home therapy tools can help fill in the gap. Devices like Flint Rehab’s FitMi home therapy can help motivate patients to participate in daily rehab. As a result, many patients see improvement within weeks of using the device.
10. Invest in psychological care
Another type of therapy that often goes overlooked is psychotherapy, or “talk therapy.” Many stroke survivors struggle with depression and anxiety — for different reasons like financial strain or fear of another stroke.
If something is weighing heavy on your mind, it means you won’t be able to maximize your effort during rehabilitation. Psychological care is important for a holistic approach to stroke recovery.
11. Join a support group (for survivors and caregivers)
Another great thing to do after a stroke is search for the right support group. Nothing beats the support of someone who understands exactly what you’re going through.
12. Experiment with different therapies
Because every stroke is different, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to rehabilitation. Therefore, you should research various stroke rehabilitation techniques to find the one that helps you the most.
13. Prepare for the long haul
Another critical thing to do after stroke is mentally prepare yourself for the long road to recovery. Patients that sustained mild strokes may only require 3-6 months of rehab before fully recovering.
Those that sustained moderate or massive strokes may take years to recover. Don’t let this deter you. If you keep pursuing recovery, you can achieve a recovery far higher than experts may predict.
Now that you know what to do after a stroke, start taking action. These best practices can help you take all the right steps to ensure the highest recovery possible for you or your loved one. Best of luck on the road to recovery.