Arriving Home after a Stroke – Is your Home Ready?

Recovering from a stroke and returning to the daily activities of life varies with each case.  Recovery can be as short as a few weeks or it can be years of physical, occupational, and speech therapies, to regain the use and strength of muscles, including those that impact speech, swallowing, and vision.  The best way to get back to your everyday life is by having a well-planned rehabilitation plan combined with a support network and living environment that is conducive to safely and conveniently implementing that rehabilitation plan.

You have survived and are recovering from a stroke, also known as a CVA or cerebrovascular accident.   The blood supply to part of your brain was interrupted or reduced, preventing your brain tissue from getting oxygen, resulting in temporary or permanent disabilities.  You may have had an ischemic stroke, where you had a blockage of an artery, or a hemorrhagic stroke where your artery leaked or ruptured.  If you had a transient ischemic attack (TIA or mini-stroke) the blood flow was disrupted enough for you to have temporary symptoms, but no long-term effects.  If you had an ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke, there was likely damage to a part of your brain that controls speech or swallowing, motor skills, and emotions.

The recovery outlook from a stroke depends on several factors, but of key importance is the type of stroke you had as well as how quickly you were able to get medical attention.  According to Northwestern Medicine, 10% of patients recover almost completely, 25% have minor impairments and another 40% have moderate to severe impairments1. Because 75% of stroke victims go on to live independent lives, the American Stroke Association has a helpful guide to help people prepare for living at home after a stroke. During rehabilitation, the Physical Therapist or Occupational Therapist can evaluate your home to determine what modifications should be made so that at-home living and rehabilitation is safe and productive.

There are several “no or low cost” improvements that can be made to start preparing a home for post-stroke patients:

  • Remove throw rugs to prevent a tripping hazard
  • Move furniture to create a more open area for a walker or wheelchair
  • Improve lighting in the home as strokes on the right side of the brain cause vision problems
  • Wear slip-resistant shoes or socks when in the home
  • Keep a telephone within reach of the recovering person
  • Move or reorganize clothing and personal items so they are within reach of the recovering person
  • Replace shelves with baskets or pull-out shelves
  • Purchase a wheeled cart to transport items within the home
  • Place a Lazy Susan on a countertop or inside a cabinet for easy access to items

Based on the targeted level and time of recovery, as well as the layout of the home, additional safety devices can be purchased or rented to ensure living and rehabilitation in the home are productive and safe.  Not only is the health and safety of the recovering stroke patient to be considered, but so is that of the caregiver(s) and support network.  Ultimately, healing and improvement will be dependent on the recovering patients’ abilities and attitude but making the home environment accommodating and safe keeps the rehabilitation process moving forward. The patient can continue their path to independence while the support network of caregivers, family, and friends can help facilitate that process in a well-equipped home. 

To make the home rehabilitation process productive and safe the following adaptive equipment should be considered for purchase or rent:

  • Shower Chairs
  • Tub Benches
  • Grab Bars or Security Poles (in halls and bathrooms)
  • Ramps (interior threshold ramps as well as exterior ramps)
  • Stairlift
  • Adjustable beds (for easy transfers and prevention of back strain on the caregiver)
  • Single lever faucets (easy to operate with one hand)
  • Toilet Seat Elevator
  • Accessible Shower or Shower Bay

Assistive devices, recommended by a Physical Therapist, Occupational Therapist, or Physician can improve the ability to ambulate safely.  Such devices may include a cane or a quad cane.  When the functional ability is severely impacted, or the ability to ambulate long distances is difficult, a wheelchair may be optimal.

Recovery from stroke may take weeks, months, or even years. The goal is to maximize recovery in a safe and productive manner; this includes keeping risk factors in check and living in a home that facilitates the regaining of strength and returning to self-performing activities of daily living.

For further information on strokes and steps to recovery please visit The American Stroke Association