What to Expect During the Days, Weeks, and Months After a Stroke

Stroke recovery is a long process, and progress may take time.

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Stroke recovery may look different for every patient. Depending on where in the brain the stroke occurs, you can have different symptoms that last a long time. These symptoms may change the way you think, act, move, and speak. While everyone's process is a little different, here’s what to expect during stroke recovery.

Symptoms someone may have after a stroke include:

  • Paralysis, weakness, numbness, or tingling
  • Changes in thinking, memory, or judgment
  • Changes in mood and emotions, including depression
  • Difficulty speaking and understanding others
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Loss of bladder and bowel control

What is the first step of stroke recovery?

Immediately after a stroke, you might start a medication regimen and something called inpatient stroke rehabilitation. This is a recovery program that provides intensive therapy. It usually takes place within a specialized hospital. On average, people stay in these facilities for just over two weeks, according to the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

Inpatient rehab provides a wide range of care. It helps patients regain skills in a number of areas. Experts who may be involved include:

  • Physiatrist
  • Rehabilitation nurses
  • Social workers
  • Physical therapists
  • Occupational therapists
  • Speech therapists
  • Mental health professionals

The physiatrist is the leader of this team during inpatient rehab. They specialize in physical medicine and rehabilitation.

The goal during the early phases of stroke recovery is to help the patient return home. In more severe cases, a patient may need to go to a long-term care hospital. Here, they can access more intensive medical care.

What is outpatient stroke rehabilitation?

After inpatient rehab, the next step is often outpatient rehab. This is when the patient comes into the facility a few times a week, but does not stay there overnight. This is a step in stroke recovery when the patient has gained more independence and can safely live at home. However, they may still need extra therapy for more skills.

As with inpatient rehab, outpatient rehab is unique to the patient’s needs. Some may need more focus on physical therapy. Others may need more time with speech therapy.

Some people may be homebound, meaning they are unable to attend a facility for outpatient rehabilitation. In these cases, doctors or nurses may provide home care instead.

How long does recovery take?

After a stroke, patience is important. Someone’s function may be poor right after a stroke, and progress may seem slow. However, keep in mind that recovery may continue for months. Sometimes, people experience something called “spontaneous recovery." This is when they regain a certain function suddenly. Either way, progress may continue to come as long as you’re patient for them.