May is National Stroke Awareness Month and the perfect time to learn the symptoms of a stroke. According to the American Heart Association (AHA) “Together to End Stroke: Spring 2014 Fact Sheet,” one in three Americans don’t know the warning signs of a stroke. Are you one of them? Are your caregivers? Do you know what to watch for when you are in a client’s home? You may be the first (or only) person your client sees some days. If you know the signs to look for, your quick actions to call 911 and seek immediate medical attention could save your clients life.
The AHA has joined with the American Stroke Association to encourage Americans to know the symptoms and be able to react quickly, and they’ve come up with an acronym to help: FAST.
Time to Call 911
Does your client’s face seem to be drooping on one side? Try asking your client to smile, and if he is unable to smile or only one side of his face turns up with a smile, this is a sign of a stroke. Often a person may feel like one side of the face is numb.
Is your client unable to lift or move one arm? Does she complain that her arm feels numb? Ask her to lift both arms above her head. If one arm doesn’t move, or moves but then starts to drift downward on its own, this is a sign of a stroke.
When your client tries to talk to you, is he hard to understand? Do his words come out jumbled or slurred? Ask him to repeat a simple sentence to you, such as “The sky is blue.” If he is unable to repeat the sentence clearly, this is a sign of a stroke.
Time to Call 911
If you notice any of these symptoms, even if they seem to be going away, call 911 and get help fast. It’s important to note the exact time you noticed these symptoms and report it to the emergency personnel. The faster a person gets treatment, the better his or her chances are of surviving the stroke.
In addition, take notice and seek medical help if a client seems suddenly unable to move a leg or complains of weakness or numbness in one leg, if a client seems unusually confused or has trouble understanding what you are asking her to do, if a client suddenly has vision, walking, balance or coordination problems or is unusually dizzy, or if a client has a sudden severe headache for no known reason. These could all be additional signs of a stroke.
A stroke hits someone in the United States every 40 seconds, and according to a study conducted by the AHA, 66% of the time, the call to seek medical help is made by someone other than the person suffering the symptoms of a stroke. Often, the person who has had a stroke does not even recognize the symptoms—it’s those who recognize and know the symptoms who get help fast. For caregivers, it could be you who makes the call and saves a life.
More helpful information and training materials from the American Heart Association:
Free “Spot a Stroke FAST” App download for your phone that reminds you of the symptoms, provides additional resources and connects you quickly with emergency personnel.
Visit the AHA Educational Resources page for infographics, PowerPoints, videos, handouts, etc. that could be used for caregiver training, client education or for display.