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Below are some of the questions we most frequently hear from patients and their families. We hope this information helps you to better understand what happens after a stroke and how to prepare for rehabilitation.

Ask for a referral or call us directly: 616.840.8790

My spouse had a stroke. What can I do to get him/her into Mary Free Bed?

You have a choice in where you or a family member receives rehabilitation after a stroke. Contact Mary Free Bed directly by calling 1.855.ASK.MARY. We’ll connect you with an admission liaison. This person’s responsibility is to guide you through every step of the admissions process, including:

• Acting as a liaison with the acute care hospital where your loved one currently is receiving treatment
• Explaining admission criteria and best treatment alternatives if inpatient care is not feasible
• Making arrangements for transfer to Mary Free Bed
• Analyzing your insurance benefits, limits and deductibles to determine what you’re eligible for and the cost to you
• Coordinating a tour, if desired

Your admission liaison has an extensive background in this role. He or she will be able to answer many of your questions before they even come to mind. “Ask for Mary” and we’ll take it from there.

Will it be hard for me to receive treatment at Mary Free Bed if I live outside of Grand Rapids?

The Mary Free Bed Stroke Program treats patients from throughout West Michigan and across the state. We’ve taken steps to make it worry-free and convenient for you to get the comprehensive treatment you need after a stroke. This means incorporating services and facilities to help our out-of-town patients and families, such as:

• Sleeper sofas in your private room
• Complimentary laundry facilities on your floor
• Affordable guest rooms at The inn at Mary Free Bed (available on a limited basis to visiting families)
• No-charge valet parking
• An easy-to-navigate, compact campus

The Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Network gives you access to our standard of care if you live outside of Grand Rapids and choose not to come to the main campus for treatment.

Does Mary Free Bed treat young stroke survivors?

We treat patients of all ages in the Mary Free Bed Stroke Program. This includes young and middle-aged adults who are stroke survivors. Our Pediatric Program offers highly-specialized acute inpatient rehabilitation if your child or teen has survived a stroke.

You’re not alone if you’ve survived a stroke and thought: “Aren’t I too young for this?” Public perception is that stroke is a danger just for older adults, but nearly one third of stroke survivors are 20 to 64 years old. Strokes also have become more common among young children. Our adult inpatient and outpatient treatment programs and stroke clinic are designed to get you back to daily activities – like driving, working – as quickly as possible.

What kind of recovery can I expect in the first year after my stroke?

You’re likely to have the most healing progress in the first three to six months after your stroke. Healing should continue throughout the first year, but it can be somewhat unpredictable. You may see a lot of improvement one week, only to go a month or more without feeling like you’re making much progress. The process may slow around the one-year mark, though healing can continue for many years after a stroke. Your stroke team will talk to you about your goals, expectations and potential outcomes so you’re well prepared for what lies ahead.

What should I expect from stroke therapy at Mary Free Bed?

You can expect about three hours a day of combined therapy in our inpatient Stroke Program. A typical day may include a mix of occupational therapy (things like, relearning to get dressed or making a meal), physical therapy (strength training, balance, flexibility), speech therapy (problem solving, voice, memory) and recreational therapy (finding new ways to enjoy favorite activities).

You’ll be encouraged to work hard during your recovery and we’re with you every step of the way. The intensity of the therapy and your schedule will be tailored specifically to your needs and abilities. Therapy can be challenging, but also very rewarding. As one of our Stroke Program graduates said: “I want to get better…I know that I can get better, I just have to put the effort in.”

I can barely walk – how can I participate in physical therapy?

Your stroke rehabilitation team will develop a therapy program that takes into consideration your strengths, current mobility, obstacles and all the other factors that impact your ability to participate in a certain activity.

Relearning to walk after a stroke can be scary at first. Our ceiling-mounted ambulation systems (ZeroG and Tollos) make it virtually impossible to fall as you progress through walking therapy. The LokomatPro’s robot-assisted technology allows you to remember the pattern of walking while supported by a harness and using a special treadmill with robotic “legs.” Instead of worrying about losing your balance, you can focus more intently on your therapy. This helps you to get the most out of your time at Mary Free Bed.

How long will I stay at Mary Free Bed after my stroke?

The severity of your stroke, your current level of function, your rate of improvement and many other factors influence your length of stay. Your stroke team can provide you with a timeline based on your individual circumstances and what’s best for you.

After you graduate, you’ll have access to our unique continuum of care. Resources like our Outpatient Therapy Center and our Adult Stroke Clinic give you options for lifelong follow-up, health promotion, therapy and support.

How can I best prepare for my transition to home/work and beyond?

Work closely with your therapists to discuss your personal challenges and how you can work together to overcome them. Your therapists will build on your strengths and modify your plan to help you readjust to your life at home or work. You also may consult with Michigan Vocational Rehabilitation Services to help with vocational education, restructuring, and when needed, new job training.

Our stroke mentor program will match you and your loved one with a former patient and their spouse. This gives you an opportunity to get tips from someone who knows firsthand what it’s like to make the transition from inpatient care back to home life and beyond.  

What are the emotional effects of stroke and how can our family best cope with them?

The emotional effects of your stroke depend on the location of the stroke as well as your personality. You may experience depression, mood swings, anger, crying and self-esteem issues, among others. You’re not alone: These are common effects of a stroke. Our rehabilitation psychologist can help if you experience emotional distress or depression. In some cases, medication may be appropriate.   

Will I be able to spend time with my family while I’m at Mary Free Bed?

Absolutely. We value the role of your family in your life and your well-being. That’s why we make it easy for them to be a part of your recovery with:

• Sleeper sofa in your private room
• Personalized visiting hours
• Inviting family members (including older children and teens) to participate in your therapy when appropriate

Talk to your team about your needs, whether it’s affordable nearby lodging for a family member or guidelines for preparing your child or grandchild for a first-time visit to the hospital.

What’s the nurse-to-patient ratio in the Stroke Program?

Our registered-nurse-to-patient ratio in the Stroke Program is approximately 5-to-1 during the day and 8-to-1 during the night. Nursing technicians also work closely with our registered nurses and other members of your team. We’ll make sure you always have access to the level of care you need with round-the-clock attention. Please talk to your program manager about any questions you have about your care, including nursing care.

Is it normal to feel pain after a stroke?

You may experience various aches and pains on either side of your body after a stroke. There are a number of factors affecting pain levels including the location of the stroke, sore muscles, pinched nerves or tendons and something known as “shoulder-hand syndrome.”

Talk to your doctors and nurses about any pain or discomfort you feel. Your comfort is crucial to us, and we’ll work with you to manage your pain.

Why does my whole arm or leg move when I yawn, sneeze or try to move only part of it?

Your muscles are weak after a stroke. Muscles tend to work together in certain groups, or cliques, called synergy patterns. This is why your whole leg may move when you’re only trying to move your ankle.

Talk to your doctor or therapist if you’re experiencing this synergistic movement. You’ll want to be careful not to reinforce this type of movement as it can become the only type of movement available.

The muscles in your arm and leg will have a harder time relaxing after stroke because the whole nervous system is irritated. This in turn increases the tension in your muscles even when they’re resting. Your therapist can show you or your caregiver how to safely stretch your muscles so they won’t get tight. This can help prevent other physical problems.

Can you tell me more about the Stroke Mentor Program and the Stroke Support Group?

Stroke Mentor Program
No one understands your situation better than someone who has experienced a similar challenge. You and your significant other can be paired with a fellow stroke survivor and his or her significant other. Our carefully-selected stroke mentors complete a formal mentoring program designed by the American Stroke Association. Your mentor visits you during your inpatient stay at Mary Free Bed and continues to meet with you after you return home.

Stroke Support Group
Our Stroke Support Group provides an educational and fun forum for stroke survivors and family members to meet and learn about adjusting to the lifestyle changes associated with a stroke. Our patients tell us these monthly meetings are an important part of the rehabilitation process. We also celebrate three social events each year: a summer picnic, a spring potluck and a holiday party.

Monthly meetings are held the first Wednesday of every month at 6:15-7:30 pm. We meet in the second floor conference room in Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital (235 Wealthy St. SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49503). Contact Steve Wheeler at 616.840.8221.