Experts estimate that every year, almost 800,000 people experience a stroke of some kind, be it relatively minor or severe, recurrent or new. This number is alarming when you consider that strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. While strokes occur every 40 seconds here in the U.S., it is equally startling to know that an individual dies every four minutes from a stroke. Of those who survive a stroke, a certain degree of disability results. In fact, strokes are the number one cause of disabilities in the U.S.
What exactly is a stroke?
Stroke.org describes strokes as a “brain attack”. When the flow of blood, which is rich in oxygen, to the brain is blocked or cut off, so is the oxygen; and when brain cells are deprived of oxygen, they start to die within minutes. Perished brain cells are unable to complete their respective functions. As a result, areas that were once controlled by those lifeless brain cells, such as memory or muscle control, experience loss of activity. Brain damage of varying degrees is the final outcome of a stroke.
Strokes can happen to anyone at any time. Most frequently, strokes occur in people over 65 years of age. However, it is estimated that 10-15 percent of young people under the age of 45 experience strokes, as well. Risk factors of strokes occurring in young people include obesity, high blood pressure, smoking and diabetes. People who suffer from migraines and women who take birth control are at a greater risk for experiencing a stroke.
Strokes are hereditary. So if your loved one has a family history of strokes, then it is likely that a stroke of some kind will occur in later generations. Keep this fact in mind when caring for your loved one.
How do you identify a stroke?
Symptoms of a stroke can vary widely. However, certain identifiable symptoms include the following:
- Sudden weakness
- Paralysis anywhere in the body, including the face, arms or legs
- Slurred speech
- Vision problems
Signs of a stroke can readily be identified when you recall the acronym F.A.S.T. Each letter represents a serious symptom experienced by stroke victims:
F – Facial drooping occurs when one side of the stroke victim’s face droops. Have your loved one smile to test for any drooping. If one side drops lower than the other, take immediate action.
A – Arm weakness is when the stroke victim experiences numbness as well as weakness in the arms. Ask your loved one to hold up both arms in the air. If one arm drops lower than the other during this exercise, then the brain is not properly signaling the muscles within the arm.
S – Speech problems occur in the event of a stroke. Sentences are slurred and words are mumbled. Sluggish speech is an indication that attention is needed.
T – Time is key when it comes to individuals experiencing a stroke. The faster you react, the greater the chances of saving the cells within the individual’s brain and preventing the disconcerting effects of a stroke. Call 911 immediately and let the operator know that you suspect your loved one is experiencing a stroke. Your urgency will ensure a quick response.
How do you react to a stroke?
Call 911. Fast reaction times equal better recovery in individuals who have experienced a stroke. The first and most important activity to undertake immediately is to learn about all aspects of stroke symptoms. By recognizing the slightest stroke symptoms, you can call for an ambulance as soon as the symptoms hit. Don’t wait to see if the symptoms pass.
Doctors say that it is perfectly alright if you call for help and have the symptoms checked out by a medical professional, and they turn out not to be symptoms of a stroke. Caution is the best medicine.
Remain watchful of your loved one, especially when he or she acts amiss. If you suspect a loved one is vulnerable to a stroke, keep a lookout for any of the signs mentioned, like slurred speech or weakness in facial or body muscles.
Stay with the individual experiencing the stroke to prevent him or her from injury or imbalance, which can lead to a fall.
Take notes as to the exact time the stroke took place. This is helpful information for the medical team. Also note any medications and dosages the stroke victim uses. Bring this information and the actual bottles with you, if possible, to the hospital, so that the medical team can better treat your loved one.
Never offer the stroke victim medicine of any type. Aspirin can worsen some types of strokes, especially in cases when the stroke is caused by bleeding from a burst artery.
Permanent disabilities can be prevented with swift action. Remember that 80 percent of strokes are preventable. However, once a stroke hits, the recovery process lasts for the rest of the individual’s life.
If you are unable to offer constant care to your loved one who has suffered from a stroke, caregivers can fill the gap. Assisting Hands Home Care – Chicago is a reputable caregiving service in the Hinsdale, IL area ready and experienced in all aspects of providing compassionate care. Your loved one can remain at home and independent to the greatest degree possible, while feeling secure knowing that help with daily tasks is within reach.
Home care services, like Assisting Hands Home Care – Chicago, offer a variety of services, including meal preparation, home safety evaluations, transportation and bathing/grooming. Your peace of mind while you’re away from home and the feeling of security your loved one experiences are important outcomes of hiring the right home care service provider.