Posts Tagged ‘Supporting seniors through the challenges of aging’

More about Strokes…

Thursday, March 3rd, 2011

Ten years ago my mother- in-law was eighty years old and living many states away from us in Ohio.  She was a very active, retired school teacher who still volunteered at the library, socialized with her friends, took care of her own home and had many hobbies.  Many of her friends were retired teachers as well.  One day one of them picked her up to take her to a luncheon that they regularly attended.  My mother-in-law said that the entire group noticed that this particular friend was acting strangely during lunch but they could not pinpoint what the problem was.  As she was driving them home; she seemed confused, missed familiar turns, and ran over the curb several times.  Not wanting to be impolite or critical, the passengers said nothing and they each were delivered home eventually.  My mother-in-law called to ask me about her friend’s symptoms.  Could it be a stroke?  I urged her to call her friend and have her call EMS to take her to the hospital.  It was not until later, however, as her friend’s symptoms worsened, that she finally called for help and was taken to the hospital with a stroke. 

Often people know something is wrong when they or someone they are close to is having a stroke but they do not know exactly what it is so they do not do anything.  Sometimes symptoms are subtle at first.

 “My head is foggy today”, a typically alert eighty-five year old might say.

 “I can’t seem to find the right words”, an eloquently speaking seventy-nine  year old might complain. 

“My left leg just isn’t working right today.  I don’t know what’s wrong with it.  I keep bumping into things”, a normally steady, active eighty-three year old might voice.

 “I’m having trouble reading the paper today.  My eyes won’t focus”, a seventy-seven year old who is an avid reader might report.

 An attractive, young, female, TV sportscaster may begin to slur her words then speak gibberish in front of millions of viewers.  All of these sudden changes may be signs of a stroke or precursor of a stroke.  They are warnings of a potential medical problem that requires attention. 

A stroke involves damage to a portion of the brain.  The area of the brain affected will determine what the symptoms are.  The symptoms may vary considerably as the site of the damage varies.  Two people with a stroke may have very different symptoms.  One person’s stroke may affect only speech while another’s may affect their right arm or left leg.

I have always told my clients and their families to pay attention to their intuitions or instincts.  If you have a feeling something is wrong, then it probably is!  You don’t have to know what the problem is, just identify that there is a problem and then take action to get help.  You know yourself, family or friends and what is normal for each.  There are often warnings and you are the one that can spot the earliest indicators of a problem.  Do not worry about being wrong, exaggerating, or embarrassing someone.  It takes medical professionals and often diagnostic tests to determine what might be going on.  No one should expect you to know, only to make and share observations.  This is a time when you need to act as an advocate for yourself or your family or friend.  They will receive the best care if you do.  It could mean life or death or make the difference between maintaining quality of life and losing it.

What You Need to Know about Strokes

Monday, February 28th, 2011

During the recent Super Bowl, there was a young female sportscaster on television who began to slur her words and talk in jibberish.  Audiences were alarmed and concerned that she might have been  having a stroke.  It was a very real concern.  She was exhibiting some signs and symptoms of a stroke.  Though the risk of stroke is much greater in older people, young people can experience strokes as well.  In 2004 more than 100,000 people under sixty-five experienced strokes.   Strokes are not just a disease of the elderly. 

 Young women, especially, can be at higher risk for strokes.  Risk factors for those under fifty-five include:

  1. Migraine headaches that also produce visual disturbances (aura)
  2. Birth control pills-even low dose estrogen may greatly increase risk
  3. Hormone replacement therapy
  4. Lupus or other anti immune diseases
  5. Clotting disorders

In my experience as a nurse I have found that the biggest fear of many seniors  is not of dying, but of having a stroke and being disabled, unable to control their body or unable to speak.  Strokes can be very frightening so it is extremely important to know the warning signs and what to do if they occur.  It is extremely important to act quickly when a stroke occurs.  It is a medical emergency requiring immediate action!  If addressed soon enough, the stroke may be stopped and/or the effects minimized.

In order to effectively treat most strokes, you must get to a hospital, be diagnosed and treated within 3 hours from the beginning of the first symptoms***   Don’t waste time!  If there are symptoms, call EMS and get to the hospital. 

 If it has been longer than 3 hours since the beginning of symptoms, you should still go to the hospital for other types of therapies to minimize damage, and prevent additional strokes or complications.

Thank goodness the sportscaster did not have a stroke.  She was reportedly diagnosed with a migraine but there was no way of knowing that until she was taken to the hospital. 

What is a stroke? 

Another medical term for a stroke is a CVA.  That is a cerebral vascular accident.  It occurs when a blood vessel, that carries oxygen and nutrients to the brain, is either blocked by a clot or bursts and bleeds.   Part of the brain does not get the blood it needs so it begins to die.

So, a stroke is caused by the lack of blood supply to an area of the brain and without oxygen rich blood that part of the brain dies or is damaged.

There are 2 types of strokes:

  1. The most common is an ischemic stroke.  Ischemic means without oxygen.  It occurs when there is a blockage in a blood vessel in the brain.
  2. The other type is a hemorrhagic stroke in which a blood vessel in the brain ruptures or bleeds and the area it supplies with blood is damaged.

In both cases, an area of the brain is damaged by the lack of blood supply.  Strokes are the number 3 killer in the US only heart disease and Cancer are responsible for more deaths. 

Symptoms of a stroke:

Symptoms of a stroke vary somewhat according to the area of the brain affected.  Whatever function that part of the brain fulfills is what is affected but the following symptoms are some indicators of a possible stroke and should be paid attention to..

  1.    Sudden numbness or weakness-may involve the face, arms or legs-especially if on just   one side of the body
  2.   Sudden trouble seeing-in either or both eyes
  3.   Sudden confusion- unsure of surroundings, memory loss
  4.   Sudden difficulty walking-dizziness, loss of balance, drifting to one side
  5.   Trouble speaking or understanding
  6.   Severe headache

As soon as you become aware of any of these symptoms, you need to call EMS and get to an ER immediately! 

When I first began my nursing career, most people were unfamiliar with the symptoms of heart attacks.  Many people waited to seek medical attention because either they did not know what was happening or those around them did not know the signs to observe for.  Most people today know the symptoms of a heart attack but many are still not sure of the signs of stroke.  Lives can be saved if we are all familiar with these symptoms and know what to do if they occur.

Educate yourselves and save lives!  For more information, visit The American Heart Association websites.          or

The Power of Wellness

Monday, December 7th, 2009

Hello, my name is Carol Long.  I am a gerontological nurse who is beginning a new practice in senior wellness and geriatric care management.  In my years of nursing practice, I have had the opportunity to work with many seniors.  Each has enriched my life in a unique way and taught me valuable lessons.  I hope to be able to share these experiences through my business, community activities and this blog…I invite and welcome your input.  You are the ones who hold the wisdom and inspire me and others in healthcare.

Through SOZO Senior Wellness, my new business, I hope to empower seniors in their journey through aging and the families walking with them.  I want to shift the concept from “taking care of” to “supporting and partnering with”.  The connotation of care-giving can be nurturing and positive but it can also  diminish a senior’s power if they are not given choices or their wishes are not honored.  Through wellness concepts we are able to build on a client’s  strengths.  We address the challenges of aging from a different perspective.  We can provide tools, resources, education and support for the journey.

Wellness can be woven gently into the senior years.  It should be personal and individual, not a cookie-cutter program forced on someone.   Dimensions of Wellnessphysical, mental, spiritual, social, emotional, vocational and environmental describe all aspects of our lives. By appreciating the connection between body, mind and spirit we begin to see that wellness is more than the absence of illness as once thought.  It is striving for the highest level of health possible and living life to its fullest.

I invite you to share your thoughts on incorporating wellness into a senior’s life.