Stroke rehabilitation helps survivors relearn skills that are lost when part of the brain is damaged. These skills can include:

  • coordinating leg movements in order to walk
  • carrying out the steps involved in any complex activity
  • learning new ways of performing tasks to circumvent or compensate for any residual disabilities
  • learning how to bathe and dress using only one hand
  • learning how to communicate effectively when their ability to use language has been compromised

Stroke recovery begins in the acute-care hospital after the patient's medical condition has been stabilized, often within 24 to 48 hours after the stroke.

Stroke Recovery Steps

The first steps involve:

  • Promoting independent movement because many patients are paralyzed or seriously weakened.
  • Patients are prompted to change positions frequently while lying in bed and to engage in passive or active range-of-motion exercises to strengthen their stroke-impaired limbs. ("Passive" range-of-motion exercises are those in which the therapist actively helps the patient move a limb repeatedly, whereas "active" exercises are performed by the patient with no physical assistance from the therapist.)
  • Patients progress from sitting up and transferring between the bed and a chair to standing, bearing their own weight, and walking, with or without assistance.

Stroke recovery nurses and therapists help patients perform progressively more complex and demanding tasks, such as bathing, dressing, and using a toilet, and they encourage patients to begin using their stroke-impaired limbs while engaging in those tasks. Beginning to reacquire the ability to carry out these basic activities of daily living represents the first stage in a stroke survivor's return to functional independence.

For some stroke survivors, rehabilitation will be an ongoing process to maintain and refine skills and could involve working with specialists for months or years after the stroke.

Common Goals for Stroke Treatment

  • Relearning to take care of your own personal needs (i.e. dressing, eating, bathing etc.)
  • Safety in your home including training your family members and caregivers to help you in safe and effective ways.
  • Relearning to use your affected arm and/or leg.
  • Regaining your speech and thinking abilities.
  • Helping you and your family to cope with the life changes that stroke often includes.