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Stroke recovery

Recovery from stroke requires follow-up medical care. It is important that you receive regular medical care after you leave the hospital. This is how the doctors can measure the effectiveness of treatments and make sure your medicines are adjusted properly. Make sure you have a plan for which doctor(s) you will see and when to see them after you leave the hospital.

Medications

You should receive a list of your medicines and directions on how to take them before leaving the hospital.

Always take your medicine as directed by your caregiver. If you feel it is not helping, call your caregiver. Don’t quit taking your medicine unless your caregiver tells you to. 

Rehabilitation

Beginning rehabilitation soon after the stroke occurs is important for recovery and improvement. You may require care at Ascension Via Christi Rehabilitation Hospital before going home. Rehab will teach you skills to help get you back to doing the things you enjoy. Therapy will also help prevent problems such as muscle shortening (contractures). 

  • Physical therapists will work with you to strengthen your arms, legs, and hands. They may help you relearn or improve how you walk (gait training). 
  • Occupational therapists may teach you new ways to do daily activities, such as getting dressed. 
  • A speech therapist may help you relearn or improve your ability to talk and swallow. 

Home care

Even if you are going home, you may still need physical therapy to help your muscles work better and improve your strength, balance and movement. You may also need additional work with an occupational therapist and a speech therapist. 

  • Arrange your therapy sessions during the time of day when you are least tired.
  • Work closely with your therapists. It’s important to do the exercises they teach you. 
  • Home adaptation — special ramps and side rails in your home —will help you get around safely.

Emotional support

The way you think and feel about things may change after a stroke. You may be forgetful, or have trouble thinking clearly. You may get angry or start crying easily, or you may feel depressed. Talk to caregivers about your feelings. Counseling, medicines and support groups can help you cope with the changes that happen after a stroke.

Most patients who have had a stroke and require rehabilitation do improve. Some patients even have a complete recovery.

Before you leave the hospital, you should know your plan for:

  • Follow up medical care 
  • Follow up neurological care 
  • Follow up rehabilitation
  • And, your medications

Frequently asked questions

Injury to the brain may change how you do things. Think carefully about how these changes may affect you, your family and others. 

Can I drive? 

Talk to your doctor or occupational therapist. They will offer a professional opinion about how your stroke might affect your ability to drive. You may consider having your driving tested or enrolling in a training program before you return to driving. Ask your family if they have noticed changes in your thinking or judgment.

Will I be restricted from getting a driver's license?

All states have different rules governing medical conditions and driving. When you apply for or renew your driver's license, alert them that you have had a stroke.  They will tell you what you need to do to confirm if it is medically safe for you to drive.

In Kansas, visit ksrevenue.org/vehicle

Is it ok to have sex after a stroke? 

Yes. Many people continue to enjoy a satisfying sex life after stroke. It will take time for you and your partner to adjust to your new situation. Common fears or concerns include:

  • Fear of having another stroke during intercourse. This is highly unlikely. It is normal for your heart to beat faster and to breathe faster during intercourse. 
  • Fear of rejection. You may feel self-conscious about your physical appearance. It's important to talk openly about feelings and fears.
  • Fear of not being able to perform. Depression, fears, medications or other reasons may interfere with intimacy. Discuss treatments available for male impotence with your doctor. 

The key to enjoying intimacy is communication and patience. Talk to your doctor about specific issues or concerns.

Are there tasks I should avoid at home? 

  • Put safety first. Make sure all your work areas are safe and well organized. 
  • Remove throw rugs or other trip hazards. 
  • Most importantly, take your time. Moving too fast, handling too many things at one time or trying to cope with distractions can lead to accidents. 

Can I exercise? 

  • Yes. In fact, it’s encouraged and a necessary part of the healing process. 
  • Simple exercises such as walking can improve circulation, strength and cardiovascular fitness, all of which contribute to your independence and quality of life. 
  • Your doctor and/or therapists may develop an exercise program for problems such as spasticity (muscle contracting and tightness), low endurance or inability to do specific tasks. 

Staying healthy

Tips to stay safe as you recover from your stroke.

  • You may be at increased risk of falling after a stroke. To avoid fall:
    • Sit on the side of the bed and dangle your legs for several minutes before getting out of bed. This will help your circulation and prevent you from getting dizzy. 
    • Wear shoes that have nonskid soles or socks that have nonskid grids.
    • Remove small throw rugs that could make you slip or trip.
    • Place items you use frequently within easy reach.
    • Keep walkways free of clutter.
    • Ask for help if you are unsteady or dizzy.
  • Keep active: Stay as active as your muscle strength allows. Exercise daily. 
  • Test sensations: You may not be able to feel hot and cold things as well as before your stroke. Test the water before bathing or washing your body to keep from burning yourself.
  • Check your blood pressure: It’s important to keep your blood pressure in a normal range. 
  • Don't smoke: Smoking increases many health risks. It harms the heart, lungs and blood vessels. 
  • Eat right: Healthy foods may help you feel better, have more energy and heal faster. 
  • You may be told to eat foods that are low in fat or to limit the amount of salt you eat. 
  • Dieting guides such as the ‘DASH Eating Plan’ contain successful tips and ideas to get you on track for a healthier lifestyle. Visit nhlbi.nih.gov 
  • Limit alcohol use: Don’t drink alcohol in excess. 
  • Watch for signs of depression: Depression is common after a stroke and medication may be needed to help your recovery.