Senior Health

1/20/2023 | By Family Features

In the weeks and months immediately following a stroke, an early rehabilitation program offers the best possible recovery outcomes. While each person’s stroke recovery journey is unique, starting the path toward rehabilitation as soon as it’s medically safe allows stroke survivors to mitigate the lasting effects. These tips help improve life after stroke.

According to the American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association, each year, approximately 800,000 people in the United States have a stroke. Strokes can happen to anyone, at any age. In fact, globally about 1 in 4 adults over the age of 25 will have a stroke in their lifetime.

Early intervention

The rehabilitation and support a survivor receives can greatly influence health outcomes and recovery. The first three months after a stroke are especially critical. Although recovery may continue for years after a stroke, this time in the immediate aftermath of a stroke is when the brain is most able to adjust to the damage done by the stroke so the survivor can learn new ways to do things.

Physical, communication, and cognitive changes

Following a stroke, a survivor may experience physical changes, such as fatigue, seizures, weakness, or paralysis on one side of the body, or spasticity or stiff or rigid muscles, which may cause difficulty with completing daily activities and tasks. If experiencing fatigue, speak with your health care provider about ways to reduce it. Your care team may also be able to provide medications to help with seizures and spasticity. Physical therapy is also an option.

Challenges after a stroke depend on the severity and location of the stroke. In addition to various physical disabilities, stroke survivors may experience aphasia, communication and thought problems related to speaking, listening, understanding, or memory. Planning, organizing ideas or making decisions can also be harder.

“Remember to be patient when communicating with a stroke survivor,” said Elissa Charbonneau, M.S., D.O., chief medical officer of Encompass Health and an American Stroke Association national volunteer. “The impact of a stroke on cognitive, speech, and language can be significant and isolating. When connecting with a stroke survivor, some helpful practices include demonstrating tasks, breaking actions into smaller steps, enunciating, asking multiple choice questions, and repetition.”

Customized rehabilitation

physical therapist helping woman lift light weights as part of her rehabilitation program. Image by Katarzyna Bialasiewica. While each stroke recovery journey is unique, starting the path toward rehabilitation as soon as possible helps improve life after stroke.

Once a stroke survivor’s medical condition is stabilized and he or she is ready to leave the hospital, rehabilitation can help restore function and teach new ways to complete everyday tasks. Rehabilitation may take place in an inpatient facility, skilled nursing facility, or long-term acute care facility. Outpatient clinics and home health agencies can also provide rehabilitative care in certain circumstances.

One patient’s rehab journey might include therapy to improve balance, strength, or mobility, while another might need speech or other therapies. A rehabilitation designed for the individual is critical.

Preventing a recurrence

After a first stroke, nearly 1 in 4 survivors will have another. Stroke survivors can help reduce their risk of having another stroke by working with their health care team to identify what caused the stroke and uncover personal risk factors.

Related: Regaining independence after a stroke

Taking steps such as healthy eating, reducing sedentary time, and taking medications as prescribed can improve life after stroke by helping your brain and reduce your risk of a repeat stroke. Controlling conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and sleep apnea also reduce your risk of having another stroke.

Support during your journey

Caregivers and other loved ones can provide important long-term support during your recovery and rehabilitation.

Find resources for stroke rehab and recovery including the “Life After Stroke” guide, “Simply Good” cookbook, and a support network to connect with other survivors at

Family Features