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Strokes in the Elderly: Recognition, Prevention, Response, and Care

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

Strokes are a significant health concern for the elderly population and occur more commonly than most people realize. Statistics from the World Health Organization show that 1 out of 4 people will have a stroke at some point in their lifetime. In fact, close to 800,000 people a year experience a stroke in the United States alone, with most of the affected being aged 65+ and with an undeniable risk of reoccurrence.

A stroke, also known as a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), occurs when the blood supply to the brain is disrupted, leading to damage or death of brain cells. Because the risk of an occurrence increases significantly as a person ages, understanding the signs, symptoms, and appropriate care is essential for both seniors and their caregivers. Our geriatric care management team knows first-hand how an elder having a stroke can affect their entire family. It’s a leading cause of disability in seniors. CVA’s are commonly classified into two main types:

  • Ischemic Stroke: This type of stroke accounts for the majority of cases in seniors. It occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery, reducing blood flow to the brain. The clot can originate within the brain's vessels (thrombotic stroke) or travel from another part of the body (embolic stroke).

  • Hemorrhagic Stroke: Hemorrhagic strokes result from the rupture of a blood vessel in the brain. This can be caused by an aneurysm or a weakened blood vessel.

Early recognition of stroke symptoms is crucial for prompt medical intervention, which can greatly improve the chances of recovery. Look out for these common symptoms:

  1. Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm, or leg, typically on one side of the body.

  2. Sudden confusion, trouble speaking, or difficulty understanding speech.

  3. Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes.

  4. Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance, or lack of coordination.

  5. Sudden severe headache with no known cause.

**It is important to note that stroke symptoms in elderly individuals specifically can often present as confusion, sudden falls, or unexplained changes in behavior. Being vigilant about any unusual signs can make a significant difference in recognizing a stroke in seniors.

When you suspect that an elderly loved one is experiencing a stroke, time is of the essence. Follow these steps:

  1. Call 911: Immediately dial emergency services to get professional medical assistance.

  2. Note the Time: Record the time when the symptoms first appeared. This information is crucial for determining treatment options.

  3. Keep Calm: Reassure your loved one and keep them as calm as possible. Try to maintain a comforting and soothing presence.

  4. Do Not Give Medication or Food: Avoid giving any medication or food, as it might interfere with the medical assessment and treatment.

The recovery process following a stroke can be challenging, but with proper care and support, seniors can regain their independence and quality of life. Here are some key considerations:

  1. Rehab: Rehabilitation therapy, including physical, occupational, and speech therapy, is essential for recovery. These therapies help regain mobility, improve communication skills, and regain independence.

  2. Medication Management: Many elderly stroke survivors may require medication to manage conditions like high blood pressure, which is a significant risk factor for strokes.

  3. Emotional Support: Stroke survivors may experience emotional challenges. Providing emotional support and encouragement is crucial to their mental well-being.

  4. Lifestyle Changes: Implementing a healthy lifestyle with a balanced diet, regular exercise, and the reduction of risk factors like smoking can help prevent future strokes.

Being under the care of a geriatric care management team (like Senior Steps) can make a world of difference for an elderly person when it comes to preventing a cerebrovascular accident. This is accomplished by educating the senior and guiding them through taking preventative measures, including some serious lifestyle changes that can drastically increase risk factors. Geriatric care managers can also be indispensable in providing care after the fact, from managing medications to arranging transportation to and from rehab and everything in between.

If you are interested in learning more about our team’s services and how we can support you or an elderly loved one, don’t hesitate to book a consultation call with us at no cost on our page:

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