Caregivers may be called upon to summon help in an emergency.
In the case of a stroke every second counts. Early warning signs may mean seconds — not hours or days — before a stroke. And strokes may have no warning.
While Ellen was knitting and chatting with her mother-in-law, suddenly her mother-in-law’s words slurred together.
Ellen, a nurse, knew her mother-in-law was at risk for a stroke. She immediately called 9-1-1 for help.
What is a stroke?
A stroke is the result of the sudden loss of blood flow to the brain. Often it’s due to a blockage like a blood clot blocking the flow of blood.
Because the brain needs blood and its life-giving oxygen to survive, when the early warning signs of a stroke occur you’ll need immediate help.
What are some early warning signs of a stroke?
- Sudden numbness, weakness or paralysis of the face, arm or leg. A stroke often affects only one side.
- Sudden confusion, difficulty speaking or inability to understand words.
- Sudden loss of vision or trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
- Sudden dizziness or not being able to balance (can’t stand or sit upright).
- Sudden onset of muscles not working including difficulty walking or muscles just not working the way they’re supposed to (don’t work in coordination).
- Severe headache without apparent cause.
If any one of these early warning signs of a stroke occur, call 9-1-1 or your emergency response number immediately.
And if the signs come and then go away, they may be a Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) or “mini-stroke.”
Early warning signs of a stroke that come and then go also need immediate medical help through 9-1-1 or your emergency response number.
Because symptoms that come and then go may be the only warning of a stroke.
You should know ahead of time how to reach help quickly in an emergency.
Every second counts, so tell them the facts as calmly as possible.
They will probably ask you some questions. They can send an ambulance and preferably the Emergency Medical Services or EMS (sometimes called the paramedics).
So the one you’re caring for can get medical help as quickly as possible. The EMS can do more than an ambulance or a car ride to the hospital. New medications including “clot busting drugs” need started quickly to be effective.
Professionals are trained to evaluate conditions like strokes and heart attacks in progress and are equipped to stop them when possible.
Not all of these signs may be present at once. Any one is an indication to get help now.
What are some things you can do before the early warning signs occur?
- Ask your care recipient’s doctor about the risks of a stroke.
- Ask the doctor about additional information or suggestions to share with you, including information you may want to keep handy for an emergency.
- Have vital information such as your care recipient’s name, doctor’s name, allergies, medication list and diagnoses available next to the phone.
- Have emergency numbers available next to the phone so you don’t have to look them up in an emergency. Keep insurance information and legal documents like Health Care Proxy and Living Will available when needed.
- Familiarize yourself with the early warning signs of a stroke. It can be hard to remember in an emergency, so you may want to print out or write out the list and keep it handy.
While it’s important to recognize the early warning signs of a stroke in the one you care for, don’t neglect yourself either.
Remember, you need to be there for those to whom you give care. If you’re stressed or exhausted you can’t think clearly and make the best decisions for everyone.
In an emergency you need to be able to think clearly and calmly. And as a caregiver you probably will have emergency situations. Some of which you may not be able to prepare for in advance.
You may need to regularly recharge and re-energize yourself.
Learning how to relax when under stress can be difficult by yourself.
Need guidance in stress reduction?
Chief Robert TallTree and his wife Terri Lynn TallTree are nationally renowned speakers and trainers.
They’ve developed an e-book package to help you get started in 5 minutes to relieve stress.
Bibliography: “Warning Signs of a Heart Attack, Stroke and Cardiac Arrest.” The American Heart Association last accessed April 22, 2011.
Keep knitting to your heart’s delight — or someone else’s,
Ina Gilmore M.D. (ret.)
“The Knitting Dr.”
Ambassador of Elder Care, HowToLiveOnPurpose.com
Founder, CaregivingWithPurpose.com and TheKnittingYarn.com
The information on this website is for educational purposes only. It does not replace information or recommendations from your own physician or other health care provider. This site does not advocate medical or other health-related self-care, and encourages you to obtain advice from your own personal physician or other health care provider.
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