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Stroke is a devastating disease. Within Canada, 7.1% of people between ages 65 and 74 report living with the effects of a stroke. Every year, strokes in Canada result in approximately 4.5 million residential care days and the loss of more than 280,000 quality adjusted life years costing almost $1 billion in direct care costs per year. This makes stroke the leading cause of permanent neurological disability in Canada.

It is estimated that 58% of stroke patients return home after their stroke. Many experience depression, as do up to 30% of caregivers.

A 2011 audit of stroke services in Canada found that only 37 per cent of moderate-to-severe stroke patients receive even standard rehabilitation in the weeks after stroke, despite overwhelming evidence of its benefits. There are 62,000 strokes in Canada every year. More than 400,000 Canadians are living with stroke disability — a number that is expected to rise by 80 per cent over the next 20 years due to an aging and growing population.

In most cases, standard stroke rehabilitation ends at three months, when it’s assumed that spontaneous recovery ends and people reach a plateau.

“We have manufactured all these plateaus with our biases about how the brain works,” says Dr. Dale Corbett, Scientific Director of the Canadian Partnership for Stroke Recovery (CPSR), a joint initiative of the Heart and Stroke Foundation and Canada’s leading stroke research centres. “Recovery continues for months and years after stroke.”