Stroke Recovery: What to Expect After the Third Month

By Mark Schmidt, 9:00 am on September 16, 2019

More than 50 percent of stroke survivors are 75 and older, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Regardless of how old your senior loved one is, a stroke can present serious health issues and frustrating limitations. Fortunately, early and aggressive treatment often results in some degree of recovery. Here’s what to expect three months after a stroke.

Understanding Most Recovery Has Already Occurred

By the time the three-month mark is reached after having a stroke, the fastest stages of recovery have already occurred. In fact, for many seniors who don’t have related issues complicating their recovery, 50 percent of recovery takes place within the first few weeks after a stroke. This happens because brain plasticity (neuroplasticity), which is the brain’s ability to change and adjust, is at an especially heightened state immediately after a stroke occurs. By three months into recovery, this ability to change, adjust, and regain lost skills and abilities begins to slow down.

Reaching a Plateau

Once advances in recovery start to slow (which typically occurs after 3–4 months), what’s termed the plateau effect happens, which may mean your loved one is no longer making as much progress. It’s during this time when most inpatient rehab or post-care facilities release stroke survivors.

This is the best time to plan ahead for your loved one’s return home. Caring for a senior loved one can be challenging for families who don’t have expertise or professional training in home care, but this challenge doesn’t have to be faced alone. Family caregivers can turn to Tucson Home Care Assistance for the help they need. We provide high-quality live-in and respite care as well as comprehensive Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, and Parkinson’s care.

Continuing the Recovery Routine

Reaching a plateau doesn’t mean recovery is over for a senior who has had a stroke. This is when it’s time to shift the recovery efforts to what can be done at home to continue to make advances. If you’re caring for a loved one who has been discharged after three months or so, consider working with a physical therapist to develop a home-based routine that’s appropriate for your loved one.

Generally, a more aggressive approach to physical therapy is appropriate after three months. However, the intensity of therapy depends on each senior’s individual limitations. An at-home routine for senior stroke survivors may involve:

• Performing daily range-of-motion exercises
• Focusing on using the limb that’s most affected
• Using repetitive motions to regain certain abilities (e.g., opening and closing hands to increase the ability to grasp)
• Trying mirror therapy—using a mirror to reflect the hand that’s not affected to “trick” the brain into thinking both hands are working normally—to increase fine motor skills
• Exploring gentle forms of exercise such as yoga to further increase flexibility, strength, balance, and range of motion

Outpatient physical therapy is another option for senior stroke survivors who’ve reached the three-month mark in recovery, but it doesn’t have to be one or the other. Outpatient physical therapy can be combined with at-home exercises, activity routines, and stretches. Mental relaxation techniques can be part of this stage of recovery as well to ease post-stroke anxiety your loved one may be experiencing.

Recovering from a stroke, managing the symptoms of Alzheimer’s, and a variety of other health-related situations can make it difficult for a senior to continue living at home without someone there to help. Tucson, AZ, live-in care professionals are trained to help seniors who need 24/7 assistance. With the help of a live-in caregiver, your elderly loved one can maintain a higher quality of life while aging in place.

Setting Realistic Goals

This stage of stroke recovery is also a good time to set realistic goals your loved one may be able to achieve. Having clear goals, such as walking better or being able to perform daily tasks with little or no assistance, can provide your loved one with additional incentive to remain fully involved in his or her recovery efforts.

If your elderly loved one needs help maintaining a high quality of life while aging in place, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a trusted provider of in-home care. Our caregivers provide transportation to and from medical appointments and social events, nutritious meal preparation, assistance with daily exercise, and help with everyday tasks like bathing, grooming, and light housekeeping. To hire a dedicated caregiver, call Home Care Assistance at (520) 276-6555 today.