The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that more than 795,000 people in the United States suffer a stroke every year. A stroke happens when something blocks the supply of blood to a part of the brain or when a blood vessel in the brain bursts.
If you’ve had a stroke, knowing what to expect from the recovery process is vital. Learn about the potential recovery timeline.
Day 1: Beginning Your Recovery
The first step is always to confirm that you did have a stroke. This should happen as soon as possible because the treatment process is most effective when it begins right after the stroke.
When you arrive at the hospital, you’ll be taken to an imaging room for a CT scan, which will help identify the stroke. The type of stroke you had will determine the treatment you receive. Your team will go through the entire process with you and your loved ones to ensure you understand what it involves.
Week 1: The Next Steps
Most stroke patients can go home after about four to seven days. This will vary depending on your overall health, the severity of the stroke, and how the recovery is progressing.
This first week is when you and your team will put your recovery plan into action. You may need a number of therapies.
Physical therapy involves mobility training, motor-skill exercises, range-of-motion activities, and anything else that helps you regain motor skills.
Speech therapy focuses on helping you regain any lost speaking abilities, as well as helping you with swallowing.
Another type of therapy is occupational therapy, where an occupational therapist will help you with any issues with vision and cognitive skills.
Because stroke rehabilitation needs to focus on treating the whole patient and not just the symptoms, the treatment plan has to include cognitive and emotional activities with a mental health specialist. This type of therapy helps you express what you’ve been feeling after the stroke.
The Three Months After the Stroke
You will continue your rehabilitation either as home-based care, which involves the therapists coming to you at your home, or as outpatient therapy at a stroke rehabilitation center.
Some people can also benefit from specialized short-term or long-term care. One of these options is skilled nursing care. Many nursing facilities have experience helping people who have had strokes and need more intensive care. The average stay at these nursing facilities is about a month.
Inpatient stroke rehabilitation is another option. It usually involves spending two or three weeks at an inpatient facility for people who’ve had strokes. You will likely have therapy five days a week for at least three hours a day. This can be a good option if you need 24/7 medical care but can still handle intensive therapies.
Nursing home care is a long-term option. It is a good choice if you need non-medical care and help with things like bathing, eating, and mobility. You can still receive certain therapies, but for the most part, nursing home care focuses on helping you manage everyday life.
You can also combine these options, with some people moving from one option to the next as they start improving.
Some people experience a spontaneous recovery during the first three months after a stroke. This is when a skill or ability that you thought you had lost returns completely. Spontaneous recovery occurs because the brain finds new ways of performing a particular task.
Six Months After the Stroke
Within six months, most people who have had strokes have completed at least one rehabilitation program and may be continuing care at home.
Just because you’ve returned home doesn’t mean you don’t still need therapy, however. It’s crucial to focus on preventing another stroke as well, so you should establish relationships with specialty and primary doctors who will be there to provide ongoing care.
You should have a mental health professional helping you through this stage of recovery. Having a stroke is a major event in your life, and you may not have yet processed it emotionally. A mental health professional helps you find ways of dealing with depression, anxiety, or any other mental health concerns you’re struggling with.
Another important member of your team is the vascular neurologist. They specialize in strokes as well as other brain diseases. They’re the ones who can identify a stroke when you go to the hospital, and they also provide post-stroke care.
Your primary care doctor is another crucial team member. They help monitor your health and are even able to gauge your risks of having another stroke.
One Year After a Stroke
After a year, you will likely have completed one or more rehabilitation programs. You may still be struggling with limitations or may have experienced a full recovery. However, it’s important to know that stroke recovery is an ongoing process.
You also want to continue dealing with the emotional toll a stroke can take, so reaching out to support groups for people who’ve had strokes is a good option. This will allow you to speak with others who have gone through a similar process.
Setbacks can happen in the months after a stroke. Setbacks can include a second stroke, pneumonia, and other health issues. Although these events take a significant toll on your body, they often take a heavier one on your mental state. That’s why having a mental health professional helping you is vital.
Your care team will have to adjust your recovery timeline if these setbacks occur and prepare new therapies that can address any issues that may have arisen.
Outlook After a Stroke
A full recovery after a stroke is often possible. It’s also possible to experience lasting issues that affect your daily life and require long-term adjustments. Perhaps the most important thing, however, is to prevent another stroke.
By working closely with your recovery team and having medical professionals you trust helping you, you can pursue the various therapy options available.
One such option is regenerative medicine, also known as stem cell therapy, which uses your body’s natural healing abilities to work where you need them most. Stem cell therapy is a promising treatment to help people manage their condition and help the healing process after a stroke. Speak with your doctor about these options.