Strategies for Maintaining Independence after a Stroke


Recovery Step by Step- From FeatherWeatherK

About 600,000 people will have a stroke this year. It is one of the top health concerns in the country. Often after a stroke there will be neurological issues to overcome or adapt to, such as motor impairments, sensory disturbances and cognition impairment. Balance, walking and coordination are major concerns that affect daily life after a stroke.

Surviving a stroke is just the beginning of recovery. Once you leave the hospital, it can be challenging, frightening and frustrating to adapt to the changes in your body. Although you may be limited in your speech, movement or even cognitive thinking, you can regain independence over time and with practice. Doctors say the faster that stroke patients begin to care for themselves, the greater their quality of life will be and the less chance there is of depression.


Within days of a stroke, a team of rehabilitation specialists will evaluate you and your physical rehabilitation needs. The first steps will be to sit up unassisted and then stand and progress to walking. Depending on your abilities, you may work with a therapist for months or years to help you coordinate your movements. Your therapist will help you regain the use of arms or legs affected by the stroke through exercise. Speech pathologists assist patients suffering from aphasia, or the loss of the ability to communicate or swallow. You may be asked to take smaller bites of your food or drink thickened liquid for a short time until your swallowing reflex improves.

Getting On with Your Life, Step by Step

It may seem daunting to have to learn to care for yourself in a different way. Suffering a stroke is a setback that may slow you down quite a bit at first. But with each day, you’ll make small strides towards gaining more independence.

Bathing and getting ready are two of the most challenging events you have to tackle. Simple tasks such as getting dressed may be challenging at first. But you’ll feel and look better when you’re dressed for the day. The idea is to go slowly and don’t be hard on yourself. Whether you need assistance or not depends on how limited your range of movement is at first. But with increased time and practice, you’ll be able to take on many of these responsibilities yourself. Here are helpful tips to get started:


  • Showers are better than a tub bath because there is less risk of a fall.
  • Ask a friend or family member to install a couple of grab bars for you to maintain your balance in the shower.
  • A bathing bench can be purchased at the pharmacy and is a helpful aid.
  • Get all your supplies (towel, washcloth, soap, shampoo) ready before you get wet.
  • A hand-held shower head will make it easier to wash.
  • Make sure someone is nearby, especially the first few times.

Getting dressed:

· Choose clothing that opens in the front.

· Sit down to make sure you maintain your balance.

· Lay out your clothing in the order it will be put on.

· Start with the side of your body that has been affected by the stroke.

· A mirror may help.

· For weak arms, take a break or rest them on a table while buttoning your shirt.

· A little cornstarch on your feet will make socks glide on.

· Wear shoes or slippers over the socks so you have traction on the floor.

· Ask for help if you need it.

Many stroke sufferers are able to eventually go back to work. If you are going to re-enter the workforce, working with a vocational therapist can be beneficial. Vocational therapists are trained to assist you in searching for jobs that will be a great fit for you and your employer. They might also be able to help you adapt a work setting to make it more friendly to your physical needs.

For more education about living life after a stroke, make an appointment with a doctor at St. Pete General Hospital. To learn more about strokes and recovery, visit us online or talk to one of our nurses at Consult-A-Nurse®24 hours a day.


American Stroke Association


National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

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