Let's Talk About Stroke and Rehabilitation

Updated:Dec 9,2015

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.

Who will be a part of my rehabilitation program?

Your rehab 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.

What will I do in rehabilitation?

Rehab 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.

How can I learn more?

  1. Call 1-888-4-STROKE (1-888-478-7653) to learn more about stroke or find local support groups, or visit StrokeAssociation.org.
  2. Sign up to get Stroke Connection magazine, a free magazine for stroke survivors and caregivers at strokeconnection.org.
  3. Connect with others sharing similar journeys with stroke by joining our Support Network at strokeassociation.org/supportnetwork.

We have many other fact sheets to help you make healthier choices to reduce your risk, manage disease or care for a loved one. Visit strokeassociation.org/letstalkaboutstroke to learn more. 

Do you have questions for your doctor or nurse?

Take a few minutes to write your own questions for the next time you see your healthcare provider:

Can you refer me to a psychiatrist?

How can I continue to improve my skills after formal rehab ends?
©2015, American Heart Association

Multi-language Fact Sheet Topics

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What Is Atrial Fibrillation?
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How Can I Improve My Cholesterol?
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Stroke, Recovery and Caregiving
Hemorrhagic Stroke
Ischemic Stroke
Stroke, TIA and Warning Signs
What Are the Warning Signs of Stroke?
Stroke Risk Factors
Lifestyle Changes to Prevent Stroke
Stroke Diagnosis
Complications After Stroke
Changes Caused by Stroke
Emotional Changes After Stroke
Feeling Tired After a Stroke
Stroke and Aphasia
Stroke and Rehabilitation
Stroke Family Caregivers
How Should I Care for Myself as a Caregiver?

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