Rehab Therapy After a Stroke

doctor and patient


Stroke is the No. 5 killer of all Americans and a leading cause of long-term adult disability, affecting more than 795,000 people a year. Few are prepared for this sudden, often catastrophic event, but rehabilitation rates are encouraging. In some cases, brain cell damage may be temporary and may resume functioning over time. In other cases, the brain can reorganize its own functioning and a region of the brain “takes over” for a region damaged by the stroke.

Here is some general guidance on recovery:

  • More than 80% of stroke survivors in the U.S. live in the community, most of them at home.
  • More than two-thirds of stroke survivors in the U.S. receive rehabilitation services after hospitalization.
  • 35-40% of survivors have limitations in basic activities of daily living 6 months after their stroke.
  • 40% experience moderate to severe impairments.
  • 10% require care in a nursing home or other long-term care facility.


The long-term goal of rehabilitation is to help the stroke survivor become as independent as possible. Ideally this is done in a way that preserves dignity and motivates the survivor to relearn basic skills like bathing, eating, dressing and walking. Rehabilitation typically starts in the hospital after a stroke. If your condition is stable, rehabilitation can begin within two days of the stroke and continue after your release from the hospital. The best option often depends on the severity of the stroke:

  • A rehabilitation unit in the hospital with inpatient therapy
  • A subacute care unit
  •  A rehabilitation hospital with individualized inpatient therapy
  • Home therapy
  • Returning home with outpatient therapy
  • A long-term care facility that provides therapy and skilled nursing care

Your recovery team

A team of professionals will plan your rehab program to help you meet your stroke recovery goals. This team may include some of the following:

Physiatrist – specializes in rehabilitation following injuries, accidents or illness.

Neurologist – specializes in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of stroke and other diseases of the brain and spinal cord.

Rehabilitation nurse – helps people with disabilities and helps survivors manage health problems like diabetes and high blood pressure and adjust to life after stroke.

Physical therapist – helps with problems in moving and balance, suggesting exercises to strengthen muscles for walking, standing and other activities.

Occupational therapist – helps with strategies to manage daily activities such as eating, bathing, dressing, writing and cooking.

Speech-language pathologist – helps with talking, reading and writing, and shares strategies to help with swallowing problems.

Dietician – teaches survivors about healthy eating and special diets low in sodium, fat and calories.

Social worker – helps survivors make decisions about rehab programs, living arrangements, insurance and home support services.

Neuropsychologist – diagnoses and treats survivors who face changes in thinking, memory and behavior.

Case manager – helps survivors facilitate follow-up to acute care, coordinate care from multiple providers and link to local services.

Recreation Therapist. Helps with strategies to improve the thinking and movement skills needed to join in recreational activities