While National Stroke Awareness month takes place in May, for my family it takes place all year-round…
My mother’s stroke was diagnosed by her manicurist (which was later confirmed by the ER), just about two years ago to this day. We are forever grateful that Olga noticed the changes in my mom, and reached out for emergency help. While I am not suggesting that you leave your neurologist for a consultation (or a mani-pedi) with your nail stylist, I am proposing that all of us who work with seniors in our daily lives are advocates for the older adults whose lives we touch.
When my mom walked into the salon on that fateful day, Olga immediately recognized that something was “off”. My mom was displaying classic stroke symptoms, with one-side of her face drooping and her speech “slurry” and unclear. My mother had been feeling “unwell” all day, but was unable to put her symptoms together on her own. Olga “acted FAST” when presented with a very different version of my mom, and called my sister right away. Moments later my “mom” was zipped her off to the ER. Olga (excuse the pun) really “nailed this one”, looking out for her client, and possibly saving her life.
Mary Carter Eick, owner of Griswold Home Care in Seminole and North Orange Counties, shares a similar story experienced by one of her home care aides, who are senior advocates in their daily work with older adult clients. Recently, the aide was working with a regular client “who just didn’t seem to be himself”. With a long-held affinity and training for the elderly, combined with knowledge of the client and his habits, the aide reached out and contacted the client’s son for additional input. Though the senior wasn’t a “poster child” for stroke like my mom, it turns out he, too, had experienced a stroke.
With stroke symptoms, sometimes obvious and sometimes not, how do we know when someone needs immediate medical attention? Longwood neurologist, Bruce Hoffen M.D. suggests following the “Act FAST (Face, Arms, Speech & Time)” acronym promoted by the National Stroke Association (poster pictured) as an effective way to recognize stroke symptoms. Dr. Hoffen shared, “If you suspect someone is experiencing a stroke, start by looking for drooping on one side of the face. Ask the person to raise their arms, and check for one arm that may be drifting. Since speech is often affected, ask them to repeat a simple sentence, listening for signs of unclearness or confusion. If the person is experiencing any of these symptoms, time is of the essence, and get emergency help. If a stroke is caught within a specific time window, special clot busting drugs may be able to reverse damaging effects.” Less obvious symptoms that Hoffen points out are sudden trouble seeing, balance and coordination problems that come on quickly, and sudden severe headaches in older adults with no known cause.
How will my family celebrate this second “stroke-aversary” (as Hallmark has not yet made a card for this)? After spending time with my mother and appreciating her hard-won recovery, we will follow the advice from Emily Newman of the Orlando Senior Help Desk, who was there to give guidance and advocacy two Springs ago when we needed it most. Emily shared, “After ‘acting FAST’, and your loved one has received medical help, now is the time to slow down and surround them with a circle of support to help foster healing.”