An elderly personal alarm with automatic fall detection can detect a fall and call for help without you needing to push the button. This is vital is you are unconscious or immobile following a sudden illness or a fall. The call will automatically go through to either your nominated contacts or a SureSafe operator, depending on which service you have chosen. You will be able to get the help you need fast, even if you are unable to press the button.
Early Signs of a Stroke for Elderly People: Signs, Symptoms, PrognosisArticle by Daniel Westhead
A stroke is a serious condition that occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is interrupted or reduced, preventing brain tissue from receiving oxygen and nutrients.
In the UK, a stroke strikes every five minutes. Around 100,000 people have a stroke every year, and this is especially common in elderly people. The sooner someone receives treatment for a stroke, the less likely they are to experience brain damage and other complications. Damage to the brain can affect how the body works, as well as how you think and feel. The effects of a stroke depend on where it takes place in the brain, and how large the damaged area is.
Therefore, it’s vital that you can recognise the signs and symptoms of a stroke before it happens, to lower the risk for yourself and your loved ones.
What causes strokes?
There are three different types of stroke:
- Ischaemic stroke – this is the most common type of stroke, which happens when the brain’s blood vessels become narrowed or blocked, causing severely reduced blood flow.
- Haemorrhagic stroke – occurs when a blood vessel in the brain leaks or ruptures.
- Transient ischaemic attack (TIA) – also known as a mini-stroke. This is the same as a stroke, except that the symptoms only last for a short amount of time. This is because the blockage that stops the blood from getting to your brain is temporary.
Several risk factors can increase the risk of a stroke, including:
- Being overweight or obese
- Physical inactivity
- Heavy or binge drinking
- Smoking or second-hand smoke exposure
- Diabetes – can make your arteries more likely to clog up
- High blood pressure – the single biggest risk factor for stroke
- High cholesterol – can make your arteries more likely to get clogged up
- Cardiovascular disease (including heart defects, heart infection or irregular heart rhythm)
- Personal or family history of stroke, heart attack or TIAs
- Age – people aged 55 or over have a higher risk of stroke
- Race or ethnicity – African Americans and Hispanics have a higher risk of stroke than do those of other races or ethnicities
- Sex – men have a higher risk of stroke than women.
- Hormones – use of birth control pills or hormone therapies that include oestrogen increases the risk
What causes strokes in the elderly?
Around 75% of strokes occur in people aged 65 or over. As we get older, our arteries naturally become harder and narrower. They are also more likely to become clogged with fatty material, known as atherosclerosis, thus increasing the risk of a stroke. It’s never too late to reduce your risk of stroke – read on to discover ways you can help prevent a stroke.
Symptoms of a stroke
If you think you or someone you’re with may be having a stroke, pay particular attention to the time the symptoms started – some treatment options are most effective when given soon after the stroke begins.
What to do if you think an elderly person is having a stroke
If you notice any signs or symptoms of a stroke, even if they seem to come and go or disappear completely, you should seek immediate medical attention. The “FAST” test can help you recognise the most important signs:
- Facial weakness – ask the person to smile – has their mouth or eye drooped?
- Arm weakness – ask the person to raise both arms, does one arm drift downwards? Or is one arm unable to rise?
- Speech problems – ask the person to repeat a simple phrase – can they speak clearly and understand what you say?
- Time – If you observe any of these signs, call 999 immediately and ask for an ambulance.
Acting FAST will give the person having a stroke the best chance of survival and recovery. Make sure you and all your loved ones know how to spot a stroke.
Your first instinct may be to drive them to a hospital, but in this situation, it’s best to wait for an ambulance. Paramedics are equipped to handle different types of emergency situations and can get the person to the hospital quicker. They can also offer life-saving assistance on the way to the hospital, which can potentially reduce the damaging effects of the stroke.
Other signs of a stroke
The FAST test helps to spot the three most common symptoms of a stroke, but there are other symptoms that you should look out for and take seriously. These include:
- Complete paralysis on one side of the body
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty in finding words or speaking in clear sentences
- Sudden blurred vision or loss of sight in one or both eyes
- Sudden memory loss, confusion or dizziness, or a sudden fall
- A sudden, very severe headache resulting in a blinding pain unlike anything experienced before
- Loss of consciousness
You should call 999 immediately if you spot any of these stroke symptoms.
Keep track of the symptoms – your loved one may not be able to communicate at the hospital, so the more information you can provide, the better. Keep note of the symptoms and when they began.
Encourage the person to lie down with their head elevated – this position promotes blood flow to the brain. However, do not move them if they have fallen. Loosen any restrictive clothing.
Perform CPR, if needed – if the person becomes unconscious during a stroke, check to see if they’re still breathing. If you cannot find a pulse, start performing CPR. If you don’t know how to do this, the emergency medical dispatcher can walk you through the process until help arrives.
Stay calm – as stressful as it may be, try to remain calm. It’ll be easier to communicate with the emergency medical dispatcher when in a calm state of mind.
What to do if you think you had a stroke
If you think you’ve had or are having a stroke, call 999 immediately for an ambulance. Even if the symptoms start to or fully disappear while you’re waiting for the ambulance, it’s still important to go to the hospital for an assessment.
After an initial assessment, you will be referred to a specialist for further tests to help determine the cause of the stroke. You should then be referred to a specialist within 24 hours from when your symptoms started – treatment can also begin if prescribed.
If the symptoms disappear quickly and in less than 24 hours, this could mean you had a transient ischaemic attack (TIA) – this should be treated as a medical emergency to reduce the chances of having another stroke.
If you are vulnerable or suffer from any of the risk factors related to strokes, it may be a good idea to look into getting a one-touch panic alarm. When the easy-to-reach SOS button is pressed, the alarm will either contact our 24/7 centre to get help with you as soon as possible, or it will alert your family, friends, or neighbours that there’s an emergency and help is needed. This can offer you and your loved ones the peace of mind that if an emergency occurs, help will be with you when you need it.
How can I prevent a stroke?
Being aware of your stroke risk factors, following your doctor’s recommendations and following healthier lifestyle habits are the best ways to prevent a stroke. The following lifestyle recommendations may help if you’re at risk of a stroke or if you’ve suffered a stroke or TIA:
- Managing your blood pressure – this is one of the most important factors in reducing your risk of stroke. Healthy lifestyle alterations and medications are often used to treat high blood pressure.
- Lowering the levels of cholesterol and saturated fat in your diet – this can reduce build-up in the arteries.
- Quitting smoking – smoking increases the risk of stroke for smokers and non-smokers (due to exposure to second-hand smoke). The NHS has a list of stop smoking services to help you quit.
- Managing diabetes – a healthy diet, exercise and managing your weight can help to keep your blood sugar in a healthy range.
- Maintaining a healthy weight – being overweight can contribute to other stroke risk factors, including diabetes, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease. There are lots of resources to help in managing your weight, including the NHS Guide to keeping weight off.
- Exercising – can lower blood pressure, improve the overall health of your heart and blood vessels, increase levels of good cholesterol and help you to manage your weight, control diabetes and reduce stress levels. Read our guide to the best exercises for older people.
- Manage your alcohol intake – drink alcohol in moderation, if at all. High alcohol consumption increases the risk of high blood pressure and strokes. Talk to your doctor about what’s best for you, but just drinking one drink a day may help prevent a blood clot or stroke.
How a personal alarm can help if you have a stroke
If you or your elderly loved one is at risk of a stroke, a personal alarm could make all the difference in the chances of survival. To start, it can provide a quick, easy way to call for help if you’re experiencing any symptoms of a stroke via the easy-to-reach SOS button – this is a much safer option than a mobile phone as it just needs to be pressed once to activate a call sequence for help, plus it is worn on the body at all times.
Secondly, some personal alarms are equipped with automatic fall detection. One of the symptoms of a stroke can be loss of consciousness, which will likely cause a fall. With this feature enabled, if the personal alarm detects a fall, it will automatically call for help without you needing to do anything.
The ability to recover from a stroke depends on the severity and how quickly you get medical attention. Knowing how to prevent, react and recognise the symptoms can be the difference between life and death for you or someone you know.
Call SureSafe’s team of experts on 0800 112 3201 to find out more about how a personal alarm can help keep you safe when you or a loved one is at risk of a stroke.