Rehabilitation is the therapy and activities you do that drive your recovery. It helps you to re-learn or find new ways of doing things that were affected by your stroke.
It aims to stimulate your brain’s ability to change and adapt, which is called neuroplasticity. By creating new brain pathways, you may learn to use other parts of your brain to recover the functions of those parts that were affected by your stroke.
What to expect
Everyone’s stroke is different, so it’s hard to predict how much you will recover. Some people return to 100 per cent or very close, while others may continue to have impairments.
Improvement can continue for years after a stroke, but for many people it’s quickest in the first six months. This is why it’s important for health professionals like physiotherapists and speech pathologists to start working with you as soon as possible after your stroke.
You can begin your rehabilitation while still in a stroke unit or on an acute ward. After that, you may be transferred to an inpatient rehabilitation unit, or you might go home with centre-based or visiting rehabilitation.
To decide how much and what type of rehabilitation therapy you get, the stroke team will consider whether you’re able to:
- improve enough to make a difference to your daily life
- manage the time spent in a therapy session
- work with the team to set goals and be prepared to reach them.
You and your family or carers should be actively involved in making these choices and in your ongoing rehabilitation.
It’s important to do as much practice as possible after the stroke, so talk to your therapists about tasks you and your family can do when the therapists are not around.
Make sure you also get appropriate rest, as it’s common to feel tired after a stroke. Sometimes you may experience fatigue that doesn’t improve with rest, so talk to your therapists about scheduling your rehabilitation for times when you are feeling most alert.
For more on recovering different functions, see our resources under Body and Mind.
After a stroke, it is often difficult to see a path from where you are now to where you want to be. Setting goals can break things down into manageable steps to get you there.
Your stroke team can help you start the process as early as possible after your stroke and continue when you leave hospital. It gives you and your family a target to aim for, with milestones to keep track of your progress.
Here are some tips to help you set goals:
- It is important that goals are specific (e.g. ‘to be able to dress myself’, rather than ‘get better’) and realistic.
- Set a timeframe to achieve your goal.
- Talk to your family and stroke team about your goals and celebrate your achievements along the way.
- Start small. Short-term goals can be stepping stones to achieve a bigger long-term goal. Your stroke team can help you to break your goals into smaller, achievable steps.
Set and keep track of your goals using the enableme goal-setting tool.
Rehabilitation means getting better after a stroke.
It helps you get back to doing things you used to do.
It also helps you find new ways of doing things.
Your brain can heal after a stroke.
This is called neuroplasticity.
Everyone is different.
Some people get back to normal.
Other people have a harder time.
You will make the most progress in the first 6 months.
You can still continue to get better for years.
What to expect
You start work on getting better very soon after your stroke.
People like physiotherapists and speech pathologists will help you.
They will visit you while you are still in hospital.
Practice the things they teach you.
Make sure you get enough rest.
Getting better is hard work!