Stroke Care: Is There a Cure for Stroke in the Elderly?
What is a stroke?
A stroke is a serious, life-threatening event that occurs when regular blood flow to a part of the brain is blocked. The interruption in blood supply means that the brain cannot receive the oxygen it needs to function; as a result, brain cells begin to die. A stroke can lead to brain injury, paralysis and even death if not promptly treated.
The two leading causes of stroke are:
• Blockage - in 85% of cases, a stroke is caused by a blockage in a blood vessel (usually a blood clot or a build-up of fatty deposits) that cuts off blood flow to the brain.
• Haemorrhage - in the remaining 15% of cases, the blood supply to the brain can be interrupted by the bursting of an already weakened blood vessel.
Use the FAST acronym to identify whether a loved one is experiencing a stroke:
• Face - the eyes, mouth, or the entire side of your loved one’s face is dropping or dropped, and your loved one may not be able to smile. Also, your loved one may be experiencing an unusual and severe headache, dizziness and loss of vision.
• Arms - your loved one may feel weakness and numbness in one arm and may not be able to lift that arm. They may also become suddenly unsteady if walking or standing up.
• Speech - your loved one’s speech may become slurred or garbled, or they may not be able to talk at all. Also, they may have trouble understanding what you are saying.
• Time - dial 999 immediately if you see your loved one experiencing ANY of the above symptoms
How does a stroke develop?
While the possibility of a stroke grows with ageing, due to the natural ageing process causing a narrowing of blood vessels, the chance of having a stroke at any age is significantly increased by lifestyle factors and medical conditions. Some of these conditions that speed up the narrowing or deterioration of blood vessels are:
• High blood pressure - the most common cause of stroke is untreated high blood pressure. High blood pressure is often caused by an unhealthy lifestyle, such as a diet high in salt and cholesterol, lack of exercise, smoking and excessive drinking. However, high blood pressure can be hereditary, and certain medical conditions and medicines can raise blood pressure as well.
• High cholesterol - causes of high cholesterol can be due to a variety of factors, such as a diet high in fatty foods, lack of exercise, being overweight, as well as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. If left untreated, it can lead to a heart attack or stroke, as the excessive cholesterol in the blood can block blood vessels.
• Diabetes - problems with insulin production, which breaks down blood sugar, can result in an excessive amount of sugar in the blood, which wears away at the walls of blood vessels, making them more likely to burst and cause a stroke.
• Smoking - nicotine raises blood pressure and heart rate. Also, the other harmful ingredients in cigarettes damage the lining of arteries, again rendering them more susceptible to bursting and resulting in a build-up of fatty deposits inside blood vessels.
Colin and Dulcie’s story
Dulcie is 100-years-old and lives with her son Colin, his wife Mary, and her Carer Sarah. She has dementia and has had full-time live-in care for six months.
We talk to the family about the challenges of finding the right care solution for a fiercely independent woman - and how the positive benefits of live-in care with Sarah has transformed all of their lives.
Effects of a stroke
The brain is a complex organ, so it is difficult to predict how a stroke will affect your loved one. The impact of a stroke will depend on the type of stroke your loved one experiences. Other factors such as which part of the brain was affected and how long the blood supply was interrupted for will determine the level of impact.
Common effects of a stroke include:
Difficulties with speech, language, comprehension, reading, writing and memory
Visual problems including lack of depth perception and directions
Physical weakness or paralysis, lack of coordination and balance, dizziness, headaches, nausea
Lack of control over the body and bodily functions, such as chewing, breathing, body temperature
Caring for a loved one after a stroke
A stroke can be a life-changing event for your loved one, which may result in significant changes to their home and daily routine. The effects of a stroke can range from mild to severe, and the impact of a stroke on the everyday life of your loved one and the type of stroke care they receive may change depending on the speed and extent of their recovery.
However, even the milder effects can be physically and emotionally challenging for your loved one to accept, especially if it negatively impacts on their appearance and independence.
Any stroke care needs to be assessed not only based on your loved one’s immediate physical and medical needs but also based on any long-term care requirements. Especially if they are no longer able to perform routine daily tasks such as grocery shopping, cooking or even washing and dressing.
As part of your loved one’s care, you may choose to use an elderly care service. A specialist elderly and dementia care service provider such as Elder can provide private care to your loved one in the familiarity of their own home.
Your loved one will receive home care from a trained carer not only in a physical and medical sense but in the form of emotional support and companionship.
This is especially important if they are unable to leave their home due to the effects of a stroke. Full-time live-in care ensures that someone is on hand at all times to assist your loved one, which becomes vital and potentially life-saving if they were to have another stroke in the future.
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