Step 3: Develop a Stroke Recovery Plan
Having goals for your recovery and a plan for how to meet them is essential to a successful recovery from stroke. Aspects of a successful recovery plan include evaluating your current physical, emotional, and communication limitations, setting realistic goals for improvements, and making a rehabilitation plan that includes what type of resources and services (financial resources, caregiver resources, rehabilitation services, and psychotherapy) you will need to reach your recovery goals.
Evaluate Your Limitations
The first step in recovering from stroke is making a realistic assessment of how the stroke has affected you physically, mentally, and emotionally. This can be more difficult than it seems, since it is natural to be in denial about how much the stroke has changed your life. Identifying your limitations will help you and your doctor plan your recovery, set your recovery goals, and estimate how much rehabilitation and care you will need to reach them.
Click here to use the Stroke Recovery Scorecard from the National Stroke Association to rate how much difficulty you have performing various tasks, and use it to talk to your doctor as you plan your journey to recovery.
Evaluate Your Resources
Stroke rehabilitation can be expensive, so it is important to know what costs you will be responsible for and what your health insurance and other benefits will cover. You will need to evaluate your financial resources, including:
- Your personal financial resources
- Your health insurance coverage of stroke rehabilitation care
- Your eligibility for assistance through government programs such as Medicaid and Medicare
- Your eligibility for disability benefits from your employer or from government programs such as Social Security
If you've experienced a stroke, check with your health insurance to see what kind of rehabilitation is covered, how much, and in what settings (such as long-term care, home care, or outpatient rehabilitation). If you are unable to work because of a stroke, you may also be eligible for disability benefits. Check with your employer for private disability, and contact the Social Security Administration at www.ssa.gov to see if you are eligible for government disability benefits.
It is also important to evaluate what your caregiver needs are, how much time family or friends who will serve as potential caregivers can dedicate to your care, and what their financial resources are. Asking these questions early in the recovery process together with your family, friends, and stroke recovery team will make future decisions easier because you have already made the choices that will guide the difficult decisions that lie ahead.
Set Goals for Recovery
Once you have evaluated what your limitations and resources are, you should set measurable recovery goals so you know exactly what you are working for and can evaluate your progress. Stroke survivors often recover quickly in the first few months after a stroke, but then progress slows. This is normal. However, it can also be frustrating and dispiriting—do not be discouraged.
Setting short-term and long-term goals will help you to motivate yourself to take the initiative to develop new abilities, activities, and interests, which is good for both your recovery process and your peace of mind. These goals should be realistic, keeping in mind your initial limitations and the fact that stroke recovery naturally slows down after the first few months. Your goals should also be measurable, meaning that there is a concrete way to determine when you have reached your goal.
Some areas in which you may wish to set recovery goals are:
- Physical rehabilitation and independence
- Social activities
- Family and community activities
Once you have decided on your long-term goals, write them down, and then break each of them up into steps needed to reach them. These steps are your short-term goals. Set timelines for all your goals and track your progress.
See our section on stroke rehabilitation to learn about the different kinds of stroke rehabilitation and how they can help you reach your recovery goals.