Stroke strikes every five minutes in the UK. Thankfully, stroke survival rates have seen a big increase over the last twenty years or so. In fact, there are currently more than 1.2 million stroke survivors in the UK, according to the Stroke Association. A stroke can be a life-changing event and our elderly loved ones are usually at the highest risk, but very few of us know how to support a parent after a stroke. Today’s article is a detailed guide to help you do just that – keep reading to learn what to do after your parent has a stroke.
How can you tell if someone is having a stroke?
- FACE: Ask them to smile. Is their face drooping on one side?
- ARMS: Ask them to raise both arms – can they raise them and keep them there?
- SPEECH: Is their speech slurred or garbled? Can they understand what you’re saying?
- TIME: It’s time to call 999 if you see any of these three signs.
Seeking treatment quickly gives your parent the best chance of recovery after a stroke. Don’t hesitate to call 999 if you spot any of the symptoms of a stroke.
What is a stroke?
Essentially, a stroke is the result of an interruption to the flow of blood to the brain. There are a few different kinds of stroke:
An ischaemic stroke happens when a blood clot forms in one of the arteries leading to the brain. The clot stops blood from flowing to the brain. As a result, the brain is deprived of oxygen, brain cells become damaged and can die. This is the most common kind of stroke.
This is less common than ischaemic stroke. A haemorrhagic stroke happens when a blood vessel bursts inside the skull and bleeds into or around the brain. This is usually a result of high blood pressure.
Transient Ischaemic Attack (TIA)
This is also called a ‘mini stroke’ or TIA. A TIA happens when the blood supply to part of the brain is temporarily interrupted. Like a stroke, this results in a lack of oxygen. However, a TIA does not last as long as a stroke; the effects usually disappear within 24 hours.
What happens after a stroke?
When someone is having a stroke, you should dial 999 immediately or take them to the nearest A&E centre. At the hospital, doctors will conduct several tests and scans to confirm whether it’s a stroke and, if so, which kind of stroke they’re having. After this, treatment will begin as soon as possible. The sooner the person gets treatment, the more likely they are to make a full recovery. In contrast, delayed treatment can make it harder to regain mobility and dexterity after a stroke. It can also make your parent more likely to suffer from stroke again in the future.
Stroke Treatment & Recovery
Treatment for stroke can take a few different forms, depending on which kind of stroke has taken place. We’ve published a separate article all about stroke treatments, which you can read by clicking here.
Rehabilitation is an important part of stroke recovery. It’s often a very long process and progress may be unpredictable. Your parent may start their rehabilitation in hospital with a team of specialists. This team could include physiotherapists, psychologists, dietitians, and speech therapists, as well as specialist doctors and nurses. They will likely have several medications to take alongside a regime of physical therapies.
After a stroke, most people stay in hospital for a little while – it could be as little as a couple of days or as long as several weeks. If your parent has had a stroke, you will probably want to use this time to make sure things are ready for them once they are discharged.
However, it isn’t easy to know what to do after your loved one has had a stroke. Next, we’ll share some tips and advice to help you care for an elderly parent after a stroke.
How to Support Your Parent After a Stroke
A stroke or TIA can be a life-changing event – not just for the person affected but also for their family and friends. Adult children often step up and take on caring responsibilities after mum or dad has had a stroke. Naturally, this can be quite an overwhelming process, but there is plenty of advice and support available. We’ll share some useful support resources later in this article.
Before we go any further, it’s important to acknowledge that everybody will have a different journey to recovery. Your parent’s progress will depend on lots of different factors including:
- Their age
- Their mobility before the stroke
- Their overall health (including any pre-existing medical conditions)
- The severity of the stroke
- Where in the brain the stroke occurred
Now let’s take a look at how to support your elderly parent after a stroke.
1. A Safe Home Environment
The vast majority of people want to return home and continue living independently after a stroke. This is possible for lots of stroke survivors, although you may need to make some adaptations to the home environment. The best time to do this may be while your parent is still in hospital. Here are some things to consider:
If your parent will be using a walking aid such as a stick or frame, is there room for them to move around the house? You may need to rearrange some furniture and change the layout of a room.
Similarly, make sure that the items they need the most often are within easy reach. This can include things like the television remote, the telephone, commonly used kitchen appliances and ingredients, clothes, their toothbrush and other toiletries.
Think carefully about all the rooms and furniture in the house. Is the sofa too low or soft for your parent to stand up easily? Are light switches within easy reach? Will they be able to carry a plate of food from the kitchen to the dining table? There are plenty of simple adaptations and living aids that can solve all of these problems.
Stroke often causes issues with balance and mobility, which can make falling a big concern. According to the NHS, 1 in 3 people over 65 who live at home will have a fall each year. Therefore, after a stroke, it’s especially important to minimise the risk of falling.
There are a few easy wins here: install sturdy grab rails in high-risk places like the bathroom, remove any trip hazards such as loose cables and rugs, and ensure that there is adequate lighting in every room of the house. The majority of falls happen at night, so you may wish to consider putting the lights on a motion sensor. This way, if your parent gets up in the night to go to the bathroom, they will never need to walk around in the dark.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, make sure the stairs are as safe as possible. This means having sturdy, secure handrails on both sides, keeping the stairs free of clutter, and making sure the area is well lit. Using the stairs can be a good way to regain strength and mobility after a stroke, but only if done safely. If your parent is unable to get up and down the stairs safely, you may need to consider installing a stairlift or rearranging the house for downstairs living.
2. Install a Pendant Alarm System
Chances are your elderly parent will be eager to feel as independent as possible after their stroke. If they’re able to carry on living at home, they may want to get back to normal as soon as possible. For many adult children of stroke survivors, the thought of leaving your parent alone at home can be concerning. After all, it’s only natural to worry about our elderly loved ones: “What if they fall over and I’m not there? What if they can’t reach the phone to call for help?” For many people, the solution is a pendant alarm system.
What is a Pendant Alarm?
These alarms consist of a base unit and a small, wearable pendant. The base unit usually plugs into the landline telephone socket and the mains power. The user wears the pendant on a wrist strap or neck cord. They can press the button on their pendant to call for help at any time. This will send a signal to the base unit, which will contact the alarm response centre.
Staff from the response centre will speak to the alarm user to assess the situation before taking the appropriate action. This could involve calling the user’s chosen emergency contacts to come and help them or, if they need urgent medical assistance, calling for an ambulance.
Pendant alarm systems – also known as Lifeline Alarms – provide peace of mind for both the user and their loved ones. If anything happens, your parent will be able to summon assistance quickly. As one of their emergency contacts, you will be notified straight away if anything happens and your parent needs help.
Pendant Alarms from Lifeline24
Here at Lifeline24, we are the UK’s leading provider of pendant alarms. We offer standard alarm systems, as described above, as well as automatic Fall Detectors and GPS Alarms that work outside the house too. Our alarms are the most affordable in the UK and our Response Centre has received the highest accreditation from the Telecare Services Authority.
Having a Lifeline alarm system in place can help prevent delays to your parent’s discharge from hospital. In this way, our alarms help to relieve pressure on the NHS too.
3. Get Paperwork in Order
It’s probably the last thing on your mind after your loved one has a stroke, but it’s important to make sure that your parent has a few key legal documents in order. Yes, it can be uncomfortable to talk about, but you should make sure that your parent has a will in place. Adults of all ages should have a will, especially if they have children or they want to leave anything to people other than their spouse/children.
Your parent may also wish to consider giving you power of attorney. This is a legal document that gives you the power to make decisions on your parent’s behalf. You can get an ordinary power of attorney, which lets you make financial decisions on a temporary basis. This will be helpful if your parent needs you to pay any bills or access their bank account while they are in hospital.
Alternatively, your parent may wish to grant you lasting power of attorney. This gives you the authority to make decisions about your parent’s finances and/or medical care if they become unable to make those decisions themselves. However, lasting power of attorney will only take effect if your parent loses mental capacity.
4. Consider Domiciliary or Live-In Care
Homecare can be a real lifeline for someone who has had a stroke. It’s a way to ensure you can carry on living in your own home, even if you need frequent support from a professional carer. There are a few different kinds of homecare available:
Also known as visiting care, this is when a trained carer will come to visit your parent at home. Visits can happen as frequently or infrequently as necessary, for as little as an hour a day or as long as an overnight stay. A domiciliary carer can offer support with a range of tasks such as getting dressed, showering, and preparing food. This kind of homecare is suitable for people who need regular (but not constant) assistance or supervision in the daytime.
If your parent requires more constant assistance, or regularly needs support at night, live-in care is probably the way to go. This is when a professional carer will move into your parent’s home and provide round-the-clock assistance. If your parent normally lives alone, this is a surefire way for you and your parent to feel at ease. With live-in care, there will always be someone on hand to give your parent the support they need after a stroke.
Even if you choose to become your parent’s primary carer after their stroke, you can still benefit from homecare services. After all, everybody needs to take a break from time to time. When you need to take some time for yourself, consider arranging respite care. This ensures that your parent will never have to go without the care they need, even if you are away on holiday. Some homecare providers can also arrange respite care on short notice, ideal for times when you are ill yourself or dealing with an emergency.
You may be able to arrange homecare through your local authority, although there are often lengthy waiting lists and you likely won’t have much say in choosing your carer. Alternatively, you may wish to arrange homecare yourself. There are several organisations that can help you do this.
Here at Lifeline24, we are partners of Abing Homecare, a UK homecare agency that provides affordable care solutions. All Abing customers also receive a free Lifeline alarm for an extra layer of reassurance.
5. Get Support When You Need it
By the time you’ve followed all the steps above, your parent may already have been discharged from the hospital. This is when the long-term work of recovering from a stroke begins. If you are taking on caring duties, it’s important to avoid burnout and exhaustion. Don’t feel guilty about taking a break and seeking support when you need it.
There are several support groups and resources available to help stroke survivors and their loved ones. Life after a stroke can take some getting used to, whether you have had a stroke yourself or you’re caring for someone else who has. Here are some of the best resources for stroke survivors and their families in the UK:
- The Stroke Association – a national charity that funds stroke research and provides support to survivors and their loved ones.
- Different Strokes – a stroke charity run by younger stroke survivors for younger stroke survivors.
- Chest Heart & Stroke Scotland – a Scottish charity supporting people and families affected by stroke and chest and heart conditions.
- Carers UK – a national charity that supports carers throughout the UK.
Mental Health Concerns
Many people are prone to feelings of anxiety and/or depression after a stroke. The impact of a stroke can cause changes to a person’s mood and personality. Additionally, they might worry about what their life will be like from now on, fearing that they may lose their independence. The steps we’ve outlined in this article will help you give your parent the best chance of recovery. However, it’s still important to be on the lookout for mental health concerns.
If your loved one seems down for more than a few weeks (losing interest in things they enjoy, changing their sleeping pattern, seeming withdrawn) this can be a sign of depression. Thankfully, depression and anxiety are treatable and a full recovery is usually possible.
If you notice any mental health warning signs in your loved one, encourage them to speak to their GP. Alternatively, you may wish to contact a doctor on their behalf if you are authorised to do so. The Stroke Association has a useful factsheet on emotional changes after stroke, which you can access here.
It’s only natural to feel worried after a stroke – whether you have suffered one yourself or your loved one has been affected. By following the steps we’ve outlined in this article, you’ll give your parent the best chance of making a full recovery.
If you would like to find out more about the Lifeline Alarm service, click here to read our quick guide or click the links below to learn more about a specific kind of alarm. Alternatively, you can call us on 0800 999 0400 or get in touch online at any time.