What should I expect after a loved one's stroke?

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Answered by: Joseph, An Expert in the Recovery from Stroke Category
Each year nearly 800,000 people in the United States will suffer a stroke. To put that in perspective, in the time it takes you to read this article at least 10 people will have had a stroke, and one of them will have died. For the rest the recovery is a long and grueling process, and more likely than not a close family remember will be providing the majority of the care needed for the stroke victim.

This is not an easy task, and will require vast amounts of patience and dedication to help you and your loved one cope with the consequences of a major stroke. Being aware of the general process and preparing for what is to come can make the difference between helping your loved one go on to live a fulfilling and enriching life, and simply coping the best they can.

After the ICU

After a loved one's stroke and once they are stable, chances are they will be transferred to a Long Term Acute Care facility, or LTAC for short. Here they will provide essentially the same care that is provided in the ICU, but with the emphasis on getting the patient prepared for the next step step in their recovery. They will continue patients on breathing machines and life support if necessary, start the beginning stages of therapy, help install the safe routine for tracheotomies, and attempt to transfer any patients currently on feeding tubes over to stomach pegs (a direct line to the stomach opposed to a tube through the throat or nasal cavity). Although there are other functions they will perform, the important thing to remember is they are the first step in helping your loved one get back on their feet.

The best advice to remember is that although they perform many of the same functions, they are not an ICU. You will undoubtedly feel at first that they are understaffed, and that your loved one is not getting near the attention they were receiving in the ICU. Take this as an opportunity to begin stepping in as the friendly face your loved one looks forward to as someone they can depend on being there, and as a time to learn as much as you can about the care processes the nurses provide.

After LTAC

The next step after LTAC is either going to be an extended stay at a rehabilitation center, or home. If your loved one has suffered a major stroke they will most likely be going to rehab. During this period of time there is one big responsibility you will have for the care of your loved one: be there. It is at this point that after a major stroke most patients will start regaining and retaining memory. This can be a tremendously scary and lonely time if they are going it alone. Frequent visits throughout the week, phone calls if they are able to take them, and letting them know you are handling their affairs goes a long way in insuring that your loved one can focus their attention on rehab and recovery. This is a time you can use to spend with your loved one, start taking the necessary steps in securing their finances, and making plans for home care.

The most uplifting experience will be that your loved one will be receiving plenty of attention from nurses and therapists. It will be difficult placing unconditional trust in the doctors and therapists, but you must rest assured that they not only deal with recovery on a daily basis, it is also their passion.


Home care after a loved one's stroke is an enormous undertaking. Entire books have been written on the subject, but here is a summary of what to expect and what to keep in mind:

Continued therapy is a must for recovering patients. For most survivors of major stroke there is an 18-month window in which the majority of recovery is going to occur. After that, there will be few if any major strides in the long term condition of your loved one. It is absolutely essential that you stress the importance this time period with your loved one, and provide all the necessary encouragement to keep them going.

During this time, one of your biggest priorities needs to be handling all financial affairs of your loved one. This includes acquiring disability benefits from their employment if they exist, and if not trying to acquire them through the state. These are time consuming activities, and are much easier to tackle if you seek out a mentor with experience in this field, or find an online community that can guide you in the right direction.

From your first sleepless nights with your loved one in the ICU, to the transition into LTAC, and then rehabilitation, and finally home, there is one piece of advice that is key to insuring the recovery of your loved one and maintaining your own stability during this time: never forget to take a moment for yourself. There will challenges and obstacles while taking care of your loved one. Some of them will be daunting and some will even seem impossible, but taking a moment for yourself every now and then is sometimes all it takes to turn a seemingly impossible situation into just another hurdle you need to jump to give your loved one the best care, attention, and encouragement they need to live a full and rewarding life.

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