Stroke Recovery at Home: What to Know and Tips

Ashley Sutphin

Jul 23 2020

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A stroke occurs when the blood supply to your brain is reduced or interrupted. Brain tissue isn’t able to receive oxygen and nutrients, and brain cells can start to die within a matter of minutes. Receiving immediate, emergency treatment is critical to help reduce complications and brain damage.

While stroke is still a leading cause of death in the U.S., treatments have come a long way in the U.S. These treatments have reduced the death rate, and helped lower the risk of disability resulting from stroke.

How Common Are Strokes?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year, more than 795,000 people have a stroke. The overwhelming majority—87%– are ischemic strokes, meaning the blood flow is blocked to the brain. Stroke reduces mobility in more than half of survivors over the age of 65, and it’s a leading cause of long-term disability.

What is Stroke Recovery Like?

Some stroke survivors recover quickly, but for other people, their recovery can be a more long-term process. You may start rehabilitation following a stroke in the hospital, and then from there, you could move to an inpatient unit. Some people may not go to an inpatient unit, and may instead recover at-home while spending time each week at an outpatient facility.

There are also some entirely home-based programs where the patient receives all of their rehabilitation therapy at home. For someone who’s going to go through stroke recovery and rehabilitation partially or entirely at home, there are things to know in terms of health and safety.

doctor looking at brain scan for stroke

Stroke recovery will often include medications, such as antidepressants or medications to help with alertness and movement. Recovery and rehab might include therapy for cognitive disorders, such as speech and occupational therapy. It can include therapy to help with communication disorders that can result from a stroke, and physical therapy is an important part of stroke recovery too. Physical activities that may be part of stroke recovery can include exercises to boost muscle coordination and strength, mobility training, and range-of-motion therapy.

The ultimate goal of any specific type of treatment used when recovering from a stroke is to help the patient relearn those skills that they lost when the stroke impacted part of their brain. Stroke recovery and rehabilitation help someone improve their quality of life and reclaim their independence.

Tips for Stroke Recovery At Home

If you’re the caregiver or loved one of someone who has had a stroke, whether they’re going through stroke recovery at home or in an inpatient facility, one of the most important things you can do is understand the timeline of the process.

For most people, the stroke recovery timeline is determined by the severity of the stroke itself. The severity of a stroke can affect physical and cognitive effects. For most people, stroke recovery can take weeks or even months. Some people continue to experience improvements in their overall functionality up to 18 months after a stroke. The lengthiness of the process can be frustrating for some, but understanding how long it can take may help alleviate some of the frustration everyone is feeling during this time.

1. Involve the Right People

Even when going through the bulk of stroke recovery at home, there is a team of professionals you or your loved one will be working with. These include:

  • Physicians: The physicians who might work with a patient on stroke recovery include a primary care doctor and specialists such as neurologists. These medical professionals may not only help someone in stroke recovery regain physical and cognitive skills but may also help the patient learn how to prevent a future stroke.
  • Rehabilitation Nurses: These are specialty care nurses who help provide care for people with disabilities.
  • Physical Therapists: A physical therapist works with patients on re-developing their coordination, movement, and balance skills. They may offer different exercises that someone recovering at home can work on each day. Physical therapists will work with family members to help the patient do their exercises.
  • Occupational Therapist: These professionals will also provide exercises that patients can do to regain their lost skills such as dressing, bathing, and eating.

Other people who may work with a patient on their recovery from a stroke can include social workers, psychologists, speech language pathologists, and registered dietitian nutritionists.

Whenever possible, you should try to attend appointments as a caregiver. Thus, you’ll learn how to help and support the development of new skills. Additionally, you’ll be providing important emotional support.

physical therapy for stroke

2. Understand Your Insurance Coverage

Another thing for caregivers to consider as they help a loved one with stroke recovery at home is insurance coverage.

Health insurance or Medicare will cover the majority of both hospitalization and rehabilitation expenses related to a stroke. Nevertheless, there may be restrictions on certain services. If you’re unsure where to begin as far as expenses and finances, a social service department or case manager at a hospital can help.

3. Prevent Falls

Safety is a big consideration during stroke recovery. There is a high fall risk that can occur during this time. Older adults are already a fall risk in many instances. A stroke can amplify this because of physical impairment.

Go through the home and see what you can do to reduce the fall risk, and make it safer overall. For example, add grab bars and seats in the bathroom and shower. If the person’s bedroom is upstairs, consider moving them downstairs.

A medical alert bracelet or medical alert button can also be an important tool to use during stroke recovery. Companies like MobileHelp, MedicalAlert, and OneCallAlert all offer services with around-the-clock support. With a medical alert bracelet or medical alert button, you can create peace of mind for yourself as a caregiver and also help support your loved one’s independence. This is an important objective of stroke recovery.

With a medical alert button or system, first responders are notified of a fall alert or other emergencies, and they can dispatch immediate help.

Other equipment that might be needed include a cane or walker, and perhaps a wheelchair. Communication aids might help with at-home stroke recovery and can include communication boards or small computers.

4. Prioritize Emotional Support

Finally, when recovering from a stroke, the patient may be experiencing psychological symptoms such as depression. It can be frustrating for them, so watch for signs they might have depression. Then you can provide emotional support and contact a psychologist or therapist if necessary.

You have to think about your emotional well-being, too, because being a caregiver can be incredibly stressful and overwhelming.

Take time for yourself to do things you enjoy and that you find relaxing. Make sure you have someone providing emotional support to you as well.

5. Other Tips Especially for Caregivers

If you’re a caregiver, the following are some general tips to keep in mind for this role:

  • Keep notes on any instructions given by the health care team, and ask questions whenever you aren’t sure about something.
  • Make a list of medications and other suggestions and exercises so that you don’t forget anything.
  • Help your loved one by encouraging them to practice what they learn during their rehabilitation.
  • Many community services are available outside of the home and also inside the home. Speak with your loved one’s care team about which of these services might be most helpful and then get in contact with them.


Stroke recovery at home can be challenging, but can also help someone develop a sense of independence as they relearn skills. This advice isn’t a replacement for the information that comes from a medical provider, however. If you have any questions, always speak to a healthcare professional.

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