Strokes are one of the most sudden, catastrophic causes of long-term disability and the fifth leading cause of death in America. According to the National Stroke Association®, around 795,000 people in the United States are affected by a stroke each year and yet few people know what a stroke is or how to know one is occurring.
According to Diane Reier, Lifestyle Specialist at Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights, a senior living community in Prospect Heights, IL., strokes are commonly recognized by the acronym FAST, which stands for face, arms (and legs), speech and time. “If something appears wrong with someone you are close to and you aren’t sure exactly what’s going on, it can help to know the acronym FAST. Simply ask the person you are with to smile. “Does their smile appear okay or does it appear to droop on one side?” asks Diane. “If so, ask the person to raise their arms and take notice to if one drifts lower than the other. It can also help to ask the person to repeat a phrase and to notice if their speech is slurred or if they are having trouble speaking. If you notice any of this, call 911 immediately, as they are likely suffering a stroke.”
Strokes, if not treated immediately, can cause long-term effects depending on the severity. Brain cells may be permanently killed or temporarily damaged, which can cause a number of negative effects from physical hardships to emotional distress to cognitive challenges, making it imperative to treat seniors quickly in order to keep them as independent as possible.
Rehabilitation and Recovery After a Stroke
After dealing with a stroke, seniors will be given a wide array of information to help them recover as quickly as possible. According to the National Stroke Association®, “because there’s so much we don’t know about the brain, it can be hard to tell what kind of rehabilitation may be needed in order to better help seniors to recover as quickly as possible.” The article states that rehabilitation may happen as soon as two days after a stroke because the sooner seniors work to recover lost movement and abilities, the quicker they are able to fully recover.
Some of the top forms of recovery include:
Physical Recovery. Because strokes can affect so much of the body in the long-term, it’s important to heal as much of the body as possible. As many of the most common strokes can cause pain, fatigue, sleep issues, paralysis, trouble with movement, seizures and vision loss long after they pass, it’s important to schedule therapies to assist in these issues. Physical or occupational therapists can help to get your body and muscles back on track.
Cognitive Recovery. Because of damage to the brain it becomes crucial to rehabilitate. Typical cognitive changes include difficulty communicating, finding the right words, understanding speech, and having trouble reading or writing. Seniors could potentially suffer from memory loss. Most of these issues can be solved and recovered by therapy, however dementia is unable to be cured, only managed. Talk to your doctor if you notice any issues with memory.
Emotional Recovery. It’s common for seniors who suffer a stroke to deal with added emotional fallout. Many seniors begin to feel depressed about their current state and may even be embarrassed about not being able to do some of the things they were once able to do. Seniors may also become anxious that they will suffer another stroke and have a hard time coping. This is when it may become necessary for a cognitive-behavioral therapist to intervene, as they can help seniors deal with this either through therapy or medications.
A senior’s care team after a stroke can consist of a large team of professionals. Depending on the abilities lost, these can include neurologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech-language pathologists, dieticians and social workers or case managers. This team is there to better help seniors recover and prevent as many long-term effects as possible.
Preventing Strokes from Reoccuring
While we know that recovery is one of the most important aspects after having a stroke, it doesn’t mean that preventing strokes in the first place is not important. In fact, many strokes would not occur if steps were taken in order to prevent them. As strokes are more likely to happen again after previously having one, it’s important to take action to prevent another stroke from occurring. Seniors should try some of the following tips from the National Stroke Association® to prevent another.
Change your habits. If seniors smoke a lot or drink high amounts of alcohol, it may be time to slow down or quit. According to the article, smoking doubles the risk of strokes and can cause clot formation that can thicken blood and increase plaque buildup in the arteries, making strokes more dangerous. Alcohol should be limited to no more than two drinks per day in order to keep blood pressure and the risk of stroke down.
Begin an exercise routine. It’s been found that seniors who exercise have a lowered risk of stroke. According to the article, those who exercise five or more times per week can benefit from a reduced stroke risk. Try walking, biking, swimming or dancing.
Start eating healthier. A balanced diet is important for everyone, but it may be more beneficial for seniors with an increased stroke risk. Seniors should be sure to eat a variety of colorful vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free or low-fat dairy, protein and lean meats and healthy oils. Limit saturated and trans fats, sugars and sodium.
If seniors have health concerns and would like to learn more about preventing recurrent strokes, they should talk to a healthcare professional. Seniors with diseases such as coronary heart disease, diabetes, cardiovascular disease or other chronic conditions should talk to their doctor about controlling and treating their conditions, as often they are medically treatable and can lower the risk of stroke. Also remember to never begin an exercise regimen before talking to your doctor, as they may advise against certain exercises or may have better suggestions.
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Live Well. Age Well. Be Well.
Offering Independent, Assisted Living and A Knew Day Memory Support, Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights is a distinctive senior living community designed to offer seniors residing in the Chicago Northwest Suburbs area a fresh alternative to “typical” senior living communities.
Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights provides residents with the ideal balance of personalized support, dignified privacy and enhanced independence complemented by luxurious amenities and our life-enriching, award-winning VIVA!SM programming by Pathway to Living®.
Managed by Pathway to Living®, an innovator in senior living, Aspired Living® offers the choice of a private studio or a one- or two-bedroom apartment and the beauty of a brand new community, stunningly appointed and decorated for unsurpassed comfort and style by the award-winning senior living design firm, Thoma-Holec Design, Inc.
For more information, please call Diane or Janette, Lifestyle Specialists, at 847-243-6920.
Disclaimer: The articles and tip sheets on this website are offered by Aspired Living® of Prospect Heights for general informational and educational purposes and do not constitute legal or medical advice. For legal or medical advice, please contact your attorney or physician.