Getting stronger after a stroke​

A stroke occurs when blood clots or broken blood vessels cut off the blood supply to your brain. Brain cells get damaged and can die if left without oxygen even for a few minutes. Recovering from a stroke can be a lengthy process that requires patience, hard work, and commitment. It may take years to recover, and some people may never fully recover lost skills. Strokes can cause significant impairment in language, cognition, and motor and sensory skills. This is why it’s considered a leading cause of serious long-term disability. ​

Beginning the recovery process as early as possible can increase your chances of regaining affected brain and body functions. Stroke recovery should start immediately following the stroke for best results. It can take weeks to years to recover, but with patience and persistence, it may be possible to regain many skills. Let’s take a look at a few things you can do as a survivor to get stronger after a stroke.​

I fall often, what should I do?

Many survivors face the fear of falling. Rehabilitation therapists usually say “Walking makes walking better” when teaching stroke survivors how to find their balance again. It may be that your muscles don’t respond quick enough to keep you in balance, or it may be other factors. Look into walking the treadmill. This will help challenge your muscles and help with your gait. You can make your balance better, and have less falls (and have less fear of falling). But it takes a lot of work.​

Hand Exercises improve hand function

Hand function and fine motor skills are often impaired after having a stroke. Hand exercises are beneficial in improving strength and dexterity regardless of whether the stroke patient is just beginning to get hand movement or already has a good hand range of motion. Most hand exercises are very simple to learn, but finding the best ones in one place is sometimes a hassle. To help you regain your fine motor skills, you can do the following activities: Stacking coins; pinching clothespins;  practice writing; stringing beads or putting together puzzles. Strengthening your hands and arms with small weights, resistance bands, and pulley weights can go a long way in rehabilitating muscles that were affected by the stroke.​

Assistive devices

Assistive devices are pieces of equipment that make it easier and safer for you to manage your daily activities. There is a great assortment of assistive devices for all areas of self care including dressing, bathing, grooming, cooking, feeding, toileting. You can rent or buy adaptive equipment such as scooters, wheelchairs, canes, walkers at your local health care or medical supply store. Your health care provider can advise you on what assistive devices may be helpful for you.​

Home modifications

Making home modifications can improve the survivor’s ability to navigate the home safely upon their arrival. Common home modifications include installing grab bars and non-slip mats, decreasing clutter, and removing floor mats and cords from walkways. An occupational therapist can be a great resource to discuss which home modifications may be most appropriate.​

Do a “practice run”

While there is no way to truly understand how to care for a stroke patient at home before experiencing it firsthand, many family members find practicing being a caregiver in a safe environment can be very helpful. This practice may be in the form of a caregiver training session with an occupational therapist, during which the primary home caregiver practices assisting with basic daily activities, such as dressing, bathing, and showering. Alternatively, some rehabilitation facilities have the option of performing a home visit. This involves the survivor and a therapist traveling to the survivor’s home to ensure the environment is set up for their success. This can also be a great opportunity for family members and caregivers to discuss any concerns regarding the survivor’s return home.​

Many stroke survivors are excited to return home, but may be anxious about the transition. However, by being adequately prepared,  family members and caregivers can relieve most concerns and make the transition easier on all involved.​

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