Recovery From Stroke

Stroke and Rehabilitation

When the immediate crisis of a stroke has passed and you’ve been stabilized medically, it’s time to consider rehabilitation (rehab) therapy.

What is stroke rehabilitation?

After a stroke, you may have to change or relearn how you live day to day. Rehab may reverse some of the effects of stroke.

The goals of rehab are to increase independence, improve physical functioning, and help you gain a satisfying quality of life after stroke. Another goal is to help you make lifestyle changes to prevent another stroke.

Your rehabilitation team may include:

  • Physiatrist — A medical doctor who specializes in rehab.
  • Physical therapist — A healthcare provider who specializes in maximizing a stroke survivor’s mobility and independence to improve major motor and sensory impairments, such as walking, balance and coordination.
  • Occupational therapist — A therapist who focuses on helping stroke survivors rebuild skills in daily living activities such as bathing, toileting and dressing.
  • Rehabilitation nurse — A nurse who coordinates the medical support needs of stroke survivors throughout rehab.
  • Speech therapist — A specialist who helps to restore speech and language skills and also treats swallowing disorders.
  • Recreational therapist — A therapist who helps to modify activities that the survivor enjoyed before the stroke or introduces new ones.
  • Psychiatrist or psychologist — Specialists who help stroke survivors adjust to the emotional challenges and new circumstances of their lives.
  • Vocational rehabilitation counselor — A specialist who evaluates work-related abilities of people with disabilities. They can help stroke survivors make the most of their skills to return to work.

Rehabilitation programs often focus on:

  • Activities of daily living such as eating, bathing and dressing.
  • Mobility skills such as transferring from bed to chair, walking or self-propelling a wheelchair.
  • Communication skills in speech and language.
  • Cognitive skills such as memory or problem solving.
  • Social skills in interacting with other people.
  • Psychological functioning to improve coping skills and treatment to overcome depression, if needed.