Experiencing a stroke is a risk at almost any age, but it is our beloved parents who are most at risk. It can be terrifying when someone suffers a stroke but making sure we are aware of the signs, as well as the high-risk factors, can prevent serious and often permanent damage to sufferer’s memory.

What is a stroke?

According to the National Stroke Association, "a stroke occurs when an artery is blocked by a clot or a blood vessel breaks, interrupting blood flow to part of the brain. These blockages and breaks can both lead to brain cells dying, and varying degrees of brain damage.
A transient ischemic attack (TIA), otherwise known as a ‘mini-stroke’, is a small stroke occurring in later life, where the brain’s blood supply is briefly interrupted and usually causes no permanent damage."

Can I tell if my parent is having a stroke?

The National Health Service (NHS) launched a "Stroke Awareness Campaign" in 2013, outlining an acronym to teach us the warning signs of a stroke. Act F.A.S.T. You might remember the adverts? 

  • Face: Has your parent’s face fallen on one side? Can they still smile?

  • Arms: Can your parent raise both arms? Can they keep them there or does one fall?

  • Speech: Is your parent’s speech slurred? Are they making sense?

  • Time: If any of these signs present themselves, you should call 999 right away.

Some other indications of an oncoming stroke can include: 

  • Headaches, normally severe

  • Dizziness. Some might confuse with tiredness

  • Blurred vision  

  • Loss of balance

  • Simply not feeling right, you will often be able to tell

As with any situation, if you are concerned about your parent’s health, at least phone for medical help.

What can I do if I suspect it is a stroke?

If you suspect that your parent has experienced a stroke, you should take them to the nearest A&E or contact 999. Don't ever wait to see if something will pass.

What will happen when they get to hospital?

The hospital will run the necessary tests and scans that must be completed to identify the cause of your parent’s problem. The doctor overseeing the process (it is a process) will be able to make the recommendations based on your parent's test results.
You will have to let them do their work. Try to remain calm and simply be there for your parent. You are not the medical team, you are their child so be ready to support them.

Mum or Dad will have basic blood tests to test for:

  • Blood Clotting Tests

  • Cholesterol Tests

  • Glucose Tests

Additional tests might be recommended by the professional can include:

  • ECG’s

  • Chest X-rays

  • CT Scans

  • MRI scans

  • Ultrasounds

  • Echocardiograms

Remember, this can be stressful for you to watch and experience. Don't forget that your role is to support your parent; they will already have the medical team working with them.

Importance of aftercare

The aftercare and rehabilitation process should begin as soon as possible to prevent reoccurrence.
The level of care your parent needs will depend on the severity of their stroke and the area of the brain affected. The timescale of their treatment plan and rehabilitation will be determined by their doctor or hospital specialist accordingly. Just remember that everyone thinks their case is more important than the next person, have patience. The doctors will do everything they can to keep things moving for your parent.

Can lifestyle choices be advised to prevent strokes?

The main risk factors that cause strokes include:

  • High blood pressure

  • High cholesterol

  • Obesity

  • Age 55 or over

While many risks can be managed and controlled with a healthy lifestyle, some are unfortunately beyond your parent's control. The National Stroke Association has a 'Stroke Risk Scorecard' that can help your parent keep track of the risks.