Recovery from Stroke: What to Expect After a CVA

Recovery from Stroke: What to Expect After a CVA

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  • Who Gets Mini Strokes?

    Who Gets Mini Strokes?

    Each year, around 665,000 Americans survive a stroke, according to the American Heart Association. And a total of more than seven million people around the nation are living with the after-effects of stroke, the National Stroke Association estimates.

    Survivors of a cardiovascular accident (CVA), also referred to as stroke, face an upward battle to become fully functioning once again.

    Click through the slideshow to learn more about stroke recovery.

  • What Happens After Stroke?

    What Happens After Stroke?

    Rehab begins in the first 24 to 48 hours following a stroke. In this period, a healthcare provider will help a patient move in bed to strengthen their limbs. This helps the patient re-learn independence and self-care.

    Rehab can’t cure the damage a stroke causes, but the human brain is capable of amazing adaptability. With time, different parts of the brain can take over roles originally assigned to other areas. Certain brain cells may recover from temporary damage.


  • Recovery Guidelines

    Recovery Guidelines

    A patient who suffered a CVA can expect the following, according to the National Stroke Association:

    • 35 percent recover almost completely, or with minor impairments
    • 40 percent experience moderate to severe impairments that require support
    • 10 percent require a nursing home or long-term care facility
    • 15 percent die shortly after a stroke

    The extent of support needed determines whether a patient receives care at home, via outpatient therapy, in a hospital, or in a long-term care facility.

  • Possible Complications

    Possible Complications

    A patient can expect varied challenges following a CVA, depending on the part of the brain affected by the stroke. Problems tend to fall into one of five broad categories:

    • difficulty controlling movement or paralysis: usually affecting half the body
    • pain and other types of sensory disturbance: including incontinence
    • problems understanding or using language: ex. losing the ability to speak and write
    • cognitive difficulties: ex. memory problems and short attention spans
    • emotional disturbances: ex. fear, anxiety, frustration, and sadness




  • Rehab Programs

    Rehab Programs

    Healthcare providers and therapists will work to help a patient regain the ability to walk, often through activities in pools and on treadmills. They also help patients re-learn daily living tasks, such as how to prepare meals and groom themselves.

    Other programs work on word comprehension, reading and writing exercises, and memory cues. Foods can be modified for patients who have difficulty swallowing. Such programs can occur in inpatient and outpatient units, hospitals, and at home.

  • Back at Home

    Back at Home

    An occupational therapist can help the patient’s family prepare for a return home. Grab bars may be placed in the bathroom and on walls near the bed, as well as along hallways, to facilitate walking.

    Safety measures can also include removing barriers and moving anything the patient could trip on. This could include removal of small, moveable rugs, uneven flooring, and loose items on the floor.

  • Keep Life Simple

    Keep Life Simple

    CVA patients require routine life during rehabilitation. Try to use simple sentences that require only yes or no answers. Keep clothing choices simple. Pullovers and shoes with hook-and-loop fasteners work well.

    Minimize distractions. Depression is common, so talk to the patient’s doctor about medicine, diet, and exercise options.

  • Return to Work

    Return to Work

    Nearly half of stroke victims under age 65 return to full- or part-time work, the National Stroke Association notes. It’s not always an easy transition. For example, the patient may suffer from fatigue, difficulty recalling words, and memory problems.

    But the more self-sufficient a patient is, the more likely it is that they’ll successfully return to daily life. The Barthel index, a measure of functional independence, taken upon a patient’s admission and discharge from the hospital, can help measure an individual’s mobility and functionality following a stroke.