Life after a stroke - what to expect

life after a stroke

Author bio: Danielle K Roberts is the co-founder of Boomer Benefits where she and her team help baby boomers navigate their Medicare insurance options. She is a member of the Forbes Finance Council and writes frequently about Medicare, retirement and personal finance.

A stroke occurs when there is either a blood clot or a ruptured blood vessel within the brain. If there is a blood clot in an artery, then that will cause an Ischemic stroke. If there is a ruptured blood vessel, then that will cause a Hemorrhagic stroke. According to the Stroke Center, nearly 800,000 people in America have a stroke each year. Strokes are actually the leading cause of long-term disability in America. Although many strokes are fatal, there are also many survivors. In fact, according to the American Stroke Association, there are over seven million stroke survivors in America.

After suffering a stroke, you can experience physical, cognitive, and emotional damages. While some changes are long-lasting, others can be reverses with rehabilitation. Because every stroke is different, each patient’s rehab is custom to them.

How a Stroke Can Affect You

The severity of the life changes that you experience after a stroke can differ from person to person. However, here are some examples as to what you could experience:


Depending on which part of the brain is affected by the stroke, you could experience some debilitating physical changes. A stroke could cause:

  • Hemiparesis

  • Paralysis

  • Seizures

  • Spasticity

  • Fatigue

Paralysis is one of the more common affects a stroke can have. If a stroke occurs on one side of the brain, then you could experience hemiparesis, or paralysis, on the opposite side of your body. Spasticity is another common effect of a stroke. Spasticity causes your muscles to stiffen, which makes it difficult to operate certain limbs.


Since our brain controls our cognitive functions, it’s easy to assume that you’ll have some form of cognitive changes after a stroke. A few cognitive changes that you could experience after a stroke are:

  • Aphasia

  • Apraxia

  • Dysarthria

  • Memory challenges

Ultimately, each one of these damages affects your speech. Aphasia occurs in three types – expressive, global, and receptive. Expressive aphasia makes it difficult for someone to speak the words they want to say, while receptive aphasia causes someone to not be able to understand other people’s words. Global aphasia is the most severe kind of aphasia because it causes someone to not be able to understand, speak, or function.

You should know that aphasia, apraxia, and dysarthria don’t cause someone to lose their intelligence. Their intelligence is still there. It’s just that certain parts of their brain are just functioning improperly.

Rehabilitation Programs Available After a Stroke

Entering rehab shortly after a stroke is the best way to regain as much brain function as possible. This is because, within the first three months after you experience a stroke, your brain is at its most influential ability. You can receive stroke rehab in places such as an in-patient rehab facility, a skilled nursing facility, a nursing home, an outpatient clinic, and even within your own home. Depending on where you obtain your rehab will affect what type of rehab you can receive. Also, the severity of your stroke may determine where you’re able to receive your rehab.

Rehab generally consists of having therapy five days a week for at least three hours each day. During rehab, you may experience help from multiple physicians, therapists, and other medical professionals. A few types of therapy you can receive are:

  • Physical therapy

  • Occupational therapy

  • Speech-Language therapy

  • Recreational therapy

  • Hearing therapy

Again, your therapy will be completely customized to your needs. However, physical therapy is almost always included in a patient’s rehab process. During physical therapy, you will relearn simple daily tasks such as balancing, walking, and more. You’ll also likely go through occupational and speech therapy. Occupational therapy helps you practice doing activities of daily living like dressing yourself, feeding yourself, writing, bathing, and more.

Speech therapy will be a big part of your rehab if your cognitive function was impaired. You will need to have patience during this therapy, as it can be extremely frustrating to know what you want to say and be unable to say it.

Medicare and Stroke Rehabilitation

Although strokes can occur at any age, 75% of strokes occur in seniors. Therefore, knowing how Medicare covers stroke rehab is important. Medicare provides substantial coverage for medically necessary rehab. Medicare Part A will cover your in-patient hospital stay you’ll likely after directly after having a stroke. Part B will cover your doctor services and rehab. As of 2019, there are no longer any hard caps on what Medicare Part B is willing to pay for therapy such as physical and speech therapy.

Medicare Part B will cover 80% of your rehab costs after you cover an annual deductible. You will be responsible for the other 20% unless you have a Medicare Supplement plan like Plan G.

Preventing Another Stroke

The likelihood of suffering a stroke after you’ve had your first one is high. Therefore, you should take certain measures to better prevent a reoccurrence. Examples of things you can manage to prevent another stroke are lowering your blood pressure, quitting smoking, increasing your physical activity, and more.

Although there are risk factors that are simply out of your control, there are lifestyle changes you can make to lower our risk of having another stroke.