Cerebrovascular Accident (Strokes) in the Elderly

by: Maria Licoudis, R.N. & Care Manager

A stroke is an “ischemic” episode, where there is a sudden disruption or loss of blood supply to a part of the brain. Strokes are usually hemorrhagic or non-hemorrhagic / ischemic. This results in an interruption of blood supply to the brain, therefore causing temporary or permanent loss of thought, movement, speech, memory and sensation. This alters the person’s ability to function normally and to perform their activities of daily living.

Symptoms of a stroke can happen quickly and cause a change in mental state, orientation, speech and vision. They can also cause a sudden numbness in extremities, weakness in the arms and legs and often drooping on one side of the face. Other symptoms can include sudden painful headaches, dizziness, difficulty walking, coordination problems, and loss of consciousness.

A “TIA” is a mini stroke where part of the brain experiences a temporary lack of blood flow. It can cause stroke-like symptoms and usually resolves in a few hours. A TIA does not permanently destroy brain tissue or cause permanent damage. People should still seek emergency care if they have any of the symptoms mentioned above as there are some people who can eventually suffer a stroke after having had TIAs.

Causes of a stroke include high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, obesity, atrial fibrillation and being older. Preventing or reducing the likelihood of strokes can be dealt with by regularly checking blood pressure, treating hypertension, controlling diabetes, following medication regimen, not smoking, using blood thinners to treat irregular heartbeats / atrial fibrillation, and eating well- balanced meals to reduce cholesterol. As well, exercising, losing weight (and maintaining a normal weight), reducing salt intake, reducing stress, and getting enough sleep and rest are also great strategies.

When treating stroke patients, depending on the severity of the stroke, most care plans should include the following:

  • helping our client to set realistic goals for recovery
  • changing and positioning every 2 hours to prevent sores and circulatory problems
  • exercise (passive and active as needed and recommended by physiotherapists)
  • observing for further stroke symptoms
  • teaching client to stand and walk again
  • cognitive therapy
  • assisting with bathing and grooming, and dressing and feeding
  • providing emotional support to the client and family
  • trying to improve moral and mental state
  • teaching how to relearn the Activities of Daily Living

Strokes are treatable, but most importantly, they are preventable. By controlling risk factors and getting prompt medical care, the risk can be reduced significantly.

Note: This information is for informative purposes only. Always check with a medical professional.

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