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The 5 Signs of Stroke and What to Do

A stroke occurs when blood flow and its life-giving oxygen are cut off from the brain for a short or extended amount of time. They can be caused by artery clogs due to fatty deposits and by protein clusters in the blood that may close smaller arteries. When blood can't reach the brain, a medical emergency occurs that could leave permanent damage or even become fatal.

If someone you know, particularly a senior, suddenly begins to act confused or uncoordinated, they may be having a stroke. Hence, it is vital to know the signs of a stroke and how to act FAST to help save their life or prevent long-term damage.

The 5 Signs of a Stroke

Know the signs of a stroke when you see them:

1) Trouble Speaking or Understanding Speech

Often the first sign people notice is confused speech. A person's speech may become garbled, or they may suddenly become confused and unable to understand the speech of others. Slurred speech may also be an indicator of problems occurring in the brain.

2) Numbness or Paralysis of the Face, Arm, or Leg

Numbness and paralysis are the signatures of a stroke, especially if it occurs on only one side of the body. A person whose face no longer moves symmetrically or who cannot raise one arm at the same level as the other may be experiencing a stroke.

3) Vision Problems in One or Both Eyes

Combined with the other symptoms, sudden vision problems are the third signature symptom of a stroke occurring. These vision problems may also occur in one or both eyes.

4) Headache, Dizziness, and Vomiting

Due to blood pressure in the brain, a stroke is often accompanied by a severe headache alongside other symptoms like extreme dizziness and vomiting.

5) Trouble Walking

Lastly, someone experiencing a stroke may have trouble walking and, particularly, coordinating both legs to move in tandem.

What to Do if Someone is Having a Stroke

If you suspect someone near you is having a stroke, it is important to act quickly and with the correct response. Understanding what is going on and seeking immediate medical attention can save their life.

Respond Immediately

Don't wait. Don't find a lull in the conversation or excuse yourself politely. If necessary, stop all nearby activities to determine if your friend or loved one is experiencing a medical emergency.

Do a FAST Stroke Assessment

How do you know, for sure, that someone is having a stroke? Apply the FAST method used by doctors and nurses:

  1. Face

    • Ask the person to face you and smile big. If one-half of their face droops, a stroke is very likely.

  2. Arms

    • Ask the person to lift both arms down by their sides to a T-shape. If they cannot raise both arms to the same level, they may be having a stroke.

  3. Speech

    • Ask the person to say a complex phrase like "The department store doesn't stock watermelons". Choose a simple but syllabic sentence to determine if their speech is slurred, or if they are experiencing speech confusion.

  4. Time

    • If one or more of the above tests points to a stroke, call 911 immediately. 

Call an Ambulance

Do not drive your friend or loved one to the hospital or allow them to drive themselves - even if the stroke "passes" and they are alright in a few minutes. Call an ambulance and stay on the line. 911 dispatch may give you instructions of what to do while the ambulance arrives.

The Importance of a Family Caregiver and the CDPAP Program

CDPAP is a New York State Medicaid Program that will compensate the caregiver, the consumer chooses to help with daily living activities. In order to qualify for CDPAP, a person must be eligible for Medicaid, be able to direct their own care,choose their caregiver and need help with their activities of daily living.

Elite Choice

Elite Choice, is a fiscal intermediary for CDPAP, supporting at-home caregivers and their loved ones so that being cared for in your own home is a blessing for everyone.

Written by: Leah Ganz
Director of Patient Services

Leah Ganz, RN, BSN is the Director of Patient Services at Elite Home Health Care. She has an extensive background in homecare and previously worked in various specialties including pediatrics, pain management and internal medicine. She oversees all patient services across Elite's departments.