| Tue, Jul 22, 2014 @ 09:00 AM

Surviving A Stroke. What Happens Next?

Posted by Medicare Made Clear

strokeYour loved one just had a stroke and survived. You may feel as though your world has been turned upside down—and it has. But there’s hope.

The Effects of Stroke

A stroke is a “brain attack” that cuts off blood and oxygen to the brain. The effects of stroke vary from person to person and can be mild or severe. Some will have problems with paralysis and memory, while others will have trouble speaking. Some disability may be permanent while others may go away or lessen throughout recovery.

The type and severity of the stroke and the location in the brain where the stroke occurred will affect the types of disability and how well your loved one will recover. Survivor motivation and determination and family support may also affect recovery.

Treatment, Early Recovery & Rehabilitation


Stroke happens without warning, which means you’ll probably be unprepared for what happens next. First, know that you are not alone. Your stroke team at the hospital is accustomed to dealing with this situation and will help you make the important decisions.

The doctors will create a treatment plan based on the type and severity of the stroke. Their recommended plan will likely include treating the stroke either medically or with surgery.  The rest of the stroke team will participate in creating a plan for recovery and rehabilitation.

Early Stroke Recovery

Some brain cells may be only temporarily damaged and may resume functioning in time. In some cases, the brain can reorganize its own functioning. But if a region of the brain has suffered permanent cell damage, an undamaged region of the brain may “take over” the damaged area. Or, new neuron paths, or detours, are sometimes formed and can go around the damaged portions of the brain.

Many stroke survivors experience remarkable and unexpected recoveries that can’t be explained. General stroke recovery guidelines show:

10 percent of stroke survivors recover almost completely

25 percent recover with minor impairments

40 percent experience moderate to severe impairments requiring special care

10 percent require care in a nursing home or other long-term care facility

15 percent die shortly after the stroke

Stroke Rehabilitation

Talk to your loved one’s doctor or social worker to find out how much and for how long Medicare or insurance will pay for medical and rehabilitation services for hospital and outpatient care. If rehabilitation services are denied due to lack of “medical necessity,” ask your loved one’s doctor to intervene on his or her behalf.

Rehabilitation usually starts in the hospital as soon as possible after the stroke. Sometimes in as few as two days after the stroke occurred. Depending on the stroke and disability, rehabilitation options may include one or more of the following:

  • Rehabilitation unit in the hospital
  • Subacute care hospital
  • Rehabilitation hospital
  • Home therapy
  • Home with outpatient therapy
  • Long-term care facility that provides therapy and skilled nursing care

Your stroke care team will help you make these arrangements.

The goal in rehabilitation is to improve function so that the stroke survivor can become as independent as possible. This is a delicate time, especially for an older adult who was independent before the stroke and may now need to relearn basic skills like eating, dressing and walking. It’s important to participate in your loved one’s recovery.

Leaving the Hospital

Before your loved one comes home, arrange with an occupational therapist to check your home and suggest changes to make everyday living easier. Some modifications may be simple, like attaching grab bars to the bathroom walls or buying an elevated toilet seat. Larger modifications  may include having to widen a doorway or adding a wheelchair ramp at the front door. Some people may require a home that doesn’t have stairs, while others may move to a long-term care facility.

Outpatient Treatment

Many people attend outpatient rehabilitation two to three times per week for several weeks or months after returning home.

Ongoing Support

Community resources, such as stroke survivor and caregiver support groups, are available for you and your loved one. The hospital or rehab treatment facility can help you find resources in your community.

Recovery from stroke is a lifelong process. It is important to know that no matter where your loved one is in recovery, there is always hope that things will continue to get better.

For more information, explore MedicareMadeClear.com or contact the Medicare helpline 24 hours a day, seven days a week at 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227), TTY 1-877-486-2048.


StrokeSmart:  Lifestyle, Recovery, Resources, Prevention—StrokeSmart.org

Recovery: Recovery, resources, support groups and caregiver care—Stroke.org

Hope: A Stroke Recovery Guide—Stroke.org

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