As the primary caregiver to an aging parent, you know that you must be ready to act immediately in the event of an emergency. This is especially true when dealing with a stroke, where every second counts. According to a recent article by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, the optimal window for stroke treatment is within the first 3 to 4.5 hours of an episode. But what can you do to ensure that you are ready to spring into action when the clock is ticking?
Know the Symptoms
The first step is to know exactly what to look for, even in the event of a minor stroke. The article by Gupta offers a helpful acronym highlighting the most common indicators of a stroke. Using ‘F.A.S.T,’ there are a few quick tests you can perform to find out if a stroke has occurred:
Facial Weakness: Ask your parent to smile. An inability to control the muscles around the mouth and face may be an indicator that something is wrong.
Arm Weakness: Have your parent raise both arms. Muscle weakness, numbness or lack of motor control are typical of a stroke episode.
Speech Difficulty: Ask your parent to repeat a simple sentence a few times. Slurred speech, garbled phrasing or difficulty forming syllables may mean that immediate action is needed.
Time is of the Essence: If you do recognize one or more of these symptoms, the time to do something is now! Don’t wait to see if these conditions worsen or improve. Contact your emergency service provider at once.
WebMD warns that many stroke sufferers will experience minor episodes before the onset of an actual stroke. These episodes, called Transient Ischemic Attacks (TIA), may cause temporary symptoms of a stroke but will subside after a few seconds or minutes. Because such events are temporary, it can be easy to miss the implications. But a TIA is a warning sign that should not be taken lightly. WebMD reports that 1 in 20 individuals suffering from TIA will have a full-blown stroke in the next few days. Across three months, that number doubles to 1 in 10 individuals. Stated quite simply, even minor symptoms of a stroke may be an indication that something major is on the horizon. As the primary caregiver to your parent, you know when something is wrong. Take even subtle changes in behavior, speech or body language very seriously.
It isn’t enough to just know the symptoms of stroke. You must also be ready to act if these symptoms appear.
Call 911: One of the biggest obstacles to treatment for many stroke victims is a failure to reach out to emergency services. Especially in instances where only minor and passing symptoms occur, the stroke sufferer and caretaker alike might simply not recognize the gravity of the event. The Mayo Clinic advises that whether a stroke is minor or major, passing or sustained, you should call for an ambulance. Allow medical professionals to administer the proper emergency treatment, reach a complete diagnosis and develop a plan for recovery.
Know the History: As the primary caregiver, be prepared to provide emergency workers, nurses and physicians with pertinent information on your parent’s current health, medications, allergies, chronic health concerns and other risk factors. Have this information on the ready to ensure that your parent receives the safest and best care possible.