Stroke: What Family Caregivers Should Know for Self and Senior Care

Stroke – one of the more feared words in healthcare, though now more treatable and preventable than ever.

As a family caregiver, you may already be experiencing helping a family member recover from a stroke or are trying to help your senior loved one avoid a stroke.

We know how prevalent stroke is in the aging population, though less so than in the past, and want to help family caregivers be aware of what steps to take to prevent becoming a statistic or giving you some common sense hints to cope with a stroke in a family member.

Our common goal is to reduce disability and death associated with stroke in our older Americans (and our selves).

Stroke Facts

  • More than 750,000 people of all ages suffer a stroke each year in America
  • 1 in 18 people, or 130,000, deaths are reported each year from stroke according to the CDC
  • Someone dies from stroke every 4 minutes
  • Every year our risk has been declining
  • The risk of stroke increases with increasing age
  • 40% of Americans over age 80 will show signs of a silent stroke under MRI
  • Stroke is the leading cause of long term disability
  • Stroke costs an estimated $38.6 billion each year in healthcare costs and missed work days

Stroke Prevention

  1. Reduce your senior loved one’s risk of a stroke; prevention is the best strategy. The earlier you start, the better your senior’s health.
  2. Encourage your senior to keep blood pressure in the normal range. A blood pressure monitor makes a great gift (really!).
  3. Help your senior maintain weight.
  4. Motivate your senior to stay physically active.
  5. Manage your senior’s diet to include healthy food choices such as fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains and lower fat choices.

Many of these steps are being followed already, since more Americans are becoming aware of their importance to overall health. Because of this, the rate of occurrence for strokes is improving — though that is of little comfort if a loved one suffers a stroke.

Remember, family caregivers it’s easy to get caught up in all the demands on our time and attention, especially when involved in senior care for a loved one, forgetting these same prevention tips apply to us as well.

Common Stroke Warning Signs and Symptoms

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm, or leg—especially on one side of the body.
  • Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

Action Steps if Stroke Occurs

  • Get your senior to the hospital as quickly as possible if you suspect a stroke.
  • Call the ambulance, don’t drive them yourself! Minutes count.

Treatment After a Stroke

  • Rehabilitation after a stroke to regain lost function is vital.
  • Assistive devices such as self-propelled wheelchairs, devices for dressing, adaptive equipment for feeding and other items that maintain independence are readily available and should be used as much as possible.
  • Rearranging furniture in the home to make getting around easier will help with independence.
  • Accept help from family and friends when needed, especially during the recovery period when some everyday tasks can be overwhelming.
  • Attend a stroke support group and learn more about stroke to be sure to take advantage of new techniques and treatments to make your senior’s life better.

We hope that you won’t need all these tips but learning all we can will help us be better prepared for a stroke emergency!

Do you have other tips for us that you think work well when dealing with stroke recovery? We would love for you to share your ideas!

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