How To Recognise A Stroke

by Milton Hayes

Stroke is a devastating and potentially life-changing condition, and whilst any age group can be affected, it's the elderly who are most at risk. 69% of stroke sufferers in Australia are over 65, and the risk increases markedly with age.

Do you care for an elderly relative?  Would you know if they were having a stroke?  It's vital that you can recognise the signs and symptoms of a stroke as soon as possible – the quicker a victim is treated, the higher their chances are of making a full recovery.

Think F.A.S.T.

A stroke happens quickly.  Simply put, a stroke is caused by a blood clot in the brain which inhibits the supply of oxygen, causing loss of function in certain areas of the victim's body.

The main symptoms of a stroke are best-remembered by using the acronym F.A.S.T.

  • Face  -  The person's face might droop on one side, their eyelid might drop and they may be unable to smile.  
  • Arms  -  The person may not be able to lift both arms up and will struggle to hold them up.  They may complain of one-sided weakness or numbness.  
  • Speech  -  The victim's speech may be slurred or unintelligible.  They may be completely unable to talk at all.  
  • Time  -  If your elderly relative exhibits any of these signs, it's 'Time' to call the emergency services immediately.

Other possible symptoms

The F.A.S.T. test identifies most strokes but sometimes other symptoms may occur, including:

  • paralysis of one side of the victim's body
  • blurred vision or sudden blindness
  • confusion, dizziness and loss of balance
  • dysphagia (trouble swallowing)
  • sudden, blinding headache
  • loss of consciousness

Sometimes a person may suffer a 'mini-stroke', or TIA.  The symptoms are the same as for a major stroke, but they are short-lived and quickly disappear.  Never ignore a TIA; they are often a serious warning that a major stroke could occur in the near future and medical attention should always be sought immediately.

What to do if you think someone has had a stroke

  • If you think someone is having, or has had, a stroke, telephone the emergency services immediately, and ask for an ambulance.  The more quickly the victim receives medical attention, the more likely they are to survive and recover.  
  • While you're waiting for the ambulance, note the time you first noticed the victim's symptoms, and the order they appeared in.  The paramedics will need this information so that they can assess the sufferer's condition and monitor them in case the condition worsens.  
  • If the person is conscious, reassure them that help is on the way and talk calmly to them while you are waiting for the ambulance.  
  • If the person becomes unconscious, place them in the recovery position to avert the risk of choking should they vomit, and cover them with a blanket or coat to keep them warm and prevent them going into shock.

In conclusion

If you have responsibility for caring for an elderly relative, it's vital that you understand how to recognise a stroke, and that you know what to do in the event of one.  Your prompt and correct action could just save someone's life.  For more information, contact an aged care provider like Evergreen Life Care.