Vanderbilt Clinical Neurosciences

Living with Stroke

After a Stroke

Once a patient goes home from the hospital after having a stoke and his or her doctor gives the OK to start exercising, rehabilitation begins.  Most stroke rehabilitation programs last several weeks to several months.

Successful rehabilitation is a team effort, and depends on: 

  • Extent of the brain injury
  • Patient's attitude
  • Rehabilitation team's skill
  • Taking the correct medicines
  • Cooperation and support of family and friends

The goal of rehab is to help patients take care of themselves as much as possible. Some patients may have to re-learn things or learn new ways to do things. It's also important to stay in good shape. About 1 in 20 stroke patients will need long-term help for everyday things such as eating, dressing, using the bathroom and bathing. 

The rehab program consists of specially trained therapists help in many ways:

  • Physical therapy helps build muscle strength and teaches ways to move safely with weak or paralyzed muscles.
  • Occupational therapy helps patients relearn ways of eating, dressing, grooming and other daily activities.
  • Speech therapy can help with problems swallowing, speaking and understanding or remembering things.

Recovery depends on how badly the stroke damaged the brain. Some patients improve a great deal in the first days and weeks after a stroke. Other improvement may happen slowly. If recovery does not begin within 2 weeks of a stroke, some muscle movement and speech may not return. However, it's common to regain speech and muscle strength over the next year.

Emotions and Intellect

It may be hard to plan and do simple things after a stroke. Stroke patients may not know how to begin or finish something. They may put on a shoe and then try to put on the sock, or they may forget how to do things they were used to doing before their stroke. More than 50% of people who have a stroke suffer from a treatable depression. If untreated, depression may delay recovery. Talk with your doctor if you feel very sad or irritable.

After a stroke, patients may cry easily or have sudden mood swings, often for no reason. Some patients laugh for no reason. A stroke can also affect seeing, touching, moving and thinking. For example, a person might see everyday objects that are not there, or see them in strange ways.

Stroke Support Group

Stroke Support Group Meetings are at at 5:30 p.m. every second Thursday of each month. They are held at the Vanderbilt Stallworth Rehabilitation Hospital at 2201 Children's Way in the cafeteria on the 2nd floor. Please contact Shelby (Nye) Bush at for more information or to be added to the monthly email list.

Download the Stroke Support Group calendar here.