Senior woman with her caregiver smiling and touching foreheads

Understanding the Stroke Recovery Timeline

The National Institute on Aging reports that stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S. Strokes also cause a greater number of long-term disabilities than any other disease.

A stroke occurs when something changes how your blood flows through your brain. If blood cannot flow to a part of the brain, after a time, the brain cells die from a lack of oxygen. Brain cells that are without oxygen for only a short time can recover, but brain cells that die cannot be brought back to life.

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) emphasizes the fact that strokes are frightening, but in many cases, are treatable. The key to treatment is to know the signs of a stroke. These include:

  • Sudden headache with no cause
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, lack of coordination, loss of balance or dizziness
  • Sudden confusion, difficulty understanding speech or trouble speaking
  • Sudden weakness or numbness in the leg, arm or face, especially on only one side of the body

The CDC says to act F.A.S.T. if you believe you or a loved one is having a stroke.

F—Face. Ask the person to smile and see if one side of the face droops.

A—Arms. Ask the person to raise both arms – does one arm drift downward?

S—Speech. Ask the person to repeat a simple phrase in order to check for slurred speech.

T—Time. If you see any of these signs, call 9-1-1 right away.

By acting F.A.S.T., you can help your loved one get the treatment necessary to recover. However, the concern about strokes can bring out a lot of questions. How long do you have symptoms before a stroke? What percentage of stroke patients make a full recovery?

In order to best support a loved one after a stroke, it is important to understand what recovery from a stroke looks like and how to set expectations and goals.

What is the Time Frame for Stroke Treatment?

Once a stroke happens, it is said that you lose nearly two million brain cells every minute. This statistic emphasizes how critical time after stroke truly is. It also helps to know what is happening to the body and mind as time passes. Here is a basic timeline of a stroke:

  • How long do you have symptoms before a stroke? Symptoms can develop over hours or days, depending on the type of stroke.
  • Once you identify the symptoms of a stroke and call 911, the first responders will act quickly to get an ambulance to your location.
  • When first responders arrive, they will verify the signs of a stroke and ask what time your symptoms began. The first responders will send a message to the hospital and begin to transport you.
  • At the hospital, within the first 10 minutes, the doctor will begin an exam.
  • Within the first 15 minutes at the hospital, tests will be conducted to see how severe the stroke was and test your abilities to move, see and speak.
  • Within the first half an hour at the hospital, you will have a CT scan to get an image of your brain so doctors can learn more about the stroke.
  • Once the doctors have the CT results, usually within the first 45 minutes, the doctors can begin treatment. Some strokes can be treated with clot-busting medication. Other types of strokes require brain surgery to repair a broken blood vessel.

Stroke Recovery Timeline

If you or a loved one has had a stroke, it can be scary to think about how life may change going forward. You may wonder about recovery goals and how long you will need rehabilitation care. To help ease the unknowns, the CDC offers some basic guidelines for a stroke recovery timeline:

Within the first few days…

After a stroke, rehabilitation efforts usually begin within the first 24 hours. For many stroke patients, some type of therapy is delivered every hour during the first day or two after the stroke.

First few weeks after a stroke…

You will typically remain in the hospital for five to seven days after a stroke. The stroke care team will evaluate you and make recommendations regarding a rehabilitation plan. Rehabilitation facilities, like Charlton Place Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, are often discussed due to the expertise of the care team in helping patients to meet recovery goals after a stroke. The care team at Charlton Place partners closely with your medical team at the hospital to support you in regaining your strength, independence and mobility.

First three months after a stroke…

You will begin your therapy and rehabilitation outside the hospital and may even complete your rehab program. The goal of rehabilitation is to bring your levels of daily functioning back as close as possible to the levels before the stroke occurred. This may mean working around functional impairment or making adjustments for new physical limitations.

Six months after a stroke…

After six months of therapy and rehabilitation, improvements continue to be possible, but will occur at a much slower rate. Some stroke patients are completely recovered by the six-month mark, while others will have ongoing impairments. So, what percentage of stroke patients make a full recovery? That depends on a variety of factors, such as how fast treatment was provided, the severity of the stroke and the type and effectiveness of the rehabilitation.

Recovery and Support

After a stroke, and when recovering from numerous other serious conditions, the selection of recovery care is vital to your success. With personalized care plans designed for each resident, the team at Charlton Place integrates physicians and therapists, as well as services including:

  • Physiatry
  • Gerontology
  • Psychiatry
  • Nephrology
  • Neurology
  • Physical therapy
  • Speech therapy
  • Occupational therapy

Contact us today to schedule a tour and learn more about the services and support available at Charlton Place Rehabilitation and Health Care Center.