The highest mortality among stroke patients occurs within the first 30 days. The effects of a stroke can lead to damage that is irreversible and can impact a number of functions necessary for the body to function properly. With someone suffering from a stroke every four seconds, hospice can provide support care for a stroke by both helping to identify an impacted individual and adding in care after the incident. Unfortunately, hospice care services are typically underutilized following a stroke. Why is that?
WHAT IS A STROKE?
A stroke is the result of a sudden interruption or reduction of blood flow to the brain. This lack of oxygen and nutrients to the brain begins to cause cells to die. When these cells begin to die, abilities controlled by cells in these areas are lost. This can impact functions such as memory or muscle control. There are two types of strokes, hemorrhagic and ischemic.
Hemorrhagic strokes occur when a blood vessel leaks into the surrounding area of the brain. This causes swelling and pressure that damages the cells and the brain tissue. While this type of stroke is less common, making up only 13 percent of stroke cases, it is responsible for 40 percent of all stroke deaths.
Ischemic strokes occur when a blood vessel is blocked by a clot or narrowed, causing a disruption in blood flow and oxygen to the brain. This type of stroke is extremely common, accounting for about 87 percent of all stroke cases.
WHO SUFFERS FROM STROKES?
Strokes can occur to anyone, anytime regardless of age, race or gender. A person of any age can suffer from a stroke; however, the risk increases as a person gets older. There are several additional risk factors for strokes including:
- Gender: Females are more likely to suffer from strokes and more often die from strokes than men.
- Family History: If someone in your family has had a stroke, you are at higher risk for suffering from one as well.
- Race: African Americans are statistically at a higher risk for strokes than Caucasian peers, this is partially due to a higher risk for obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.
- Personal History: A person who has had a stroke is more likely to have a second stroke than a person who has never had a stroke to have one at all.
Signs of a stroke generally set in and cause reactions immediately. The signs that can help identify can be remembered with the acronym FAST:
- Face: Victims of a stroke may experience symptoms impacting their facial muscles or the feeling of their face. If a person experiences facial drooping on one side of their face, or they complain of facial numbness, they may have experienced a stroke. A hospice care provider may notice changes in a patient’s smile or be able to identify complaints of numbness as signs of a stroke during their care routine. Additionally, a patient’s eyesight may be impacted. A hospice care provider may be able to help identify sudden loss of eyesight in one or both eyes as a symptom of a stroke.
- Arms: A stroke patient’s ability to move and feel their arms, or sometimes an entire side of the body, can be totally lost. A hospice care provider will know to test these complaints to help identify them as issues of a stroke. A patient will be asked to raise both arms in the air, if one side drifts downwards the patient has suffered a stroke.
- Speech: If a patient is suddenly confused, is having difficulty speaking or understanding speech, they may have experienced a stroke. A hospice care provider that regularly sees the patient will be able to notice the sudden decline of a patient’s speech abilities. Slurred speech is a large indicator of a stroke, a hospice care provider may ask a patient to repeat a simple phrase to identify if there was a sudden change in speech abilities or cognition.
- Time: Once a hospice care provider identifies a potential stroke patient based upon these symptoms, they will know to act quickly. Additionally, these experienced providers will know how to recognize and address more subtle symptoms that need to be evaluated by a doctor to confirm a stroke. These less apparent symptoms include complaints of headaches and changes in appetite. A hospice care provider who regularly monitors appetite and headaches of a patient will be able to recognize these changes in behavior and can flag them for further investigation. It is important that once symptoms are identified it is recognized to be time to call 9-1-1.
DECIDING ON HOSPICE CARE AFTER A STROKE
Patients who could greatly benefit from hospice care after suffering a stroke are often not referred early enough. Additionally, each year approximately 610,000 of strokes are first attacks, and 185,000 being recurrent attacks. Unfortunately, stroke is the third leading cause of death in the United States making the need for adequate hospice care, which is essential to stroke patients. Many people believe that hospice care is only for those on their last days, or see it as giving up when actually it is meant to help patients make the most of their remaining time and new condition.
Following a stroke, conditions that a person may want to consider hospice care include:
- Physical decline to the point of only being able to lay in bed and the inability to sit up for daily tasks
- Inability to feed oneself, stay hydrated or overall difficulty swallowing
- Rapid, unintentional weight loss
- Existence of limiting health condition prior to suffering a stroke
HOSPICE CARE FOLLOWING A STROKE
Depending on the effects of a stroke, a patient may require additional support if basic functions have been lost. Hospice care after a stroke will aid the patient in symptom management, will aid in managing any pain caused by symptoms and keep symptoms from causing any additional health issues. Hospice care can help manage symptoms including:
- Bed sores from an inability to move
- Balance problems
- Inability to control bodily functions
- Difficulty or inability to speak
Life after a stroke can be very difficult for the patient, and their family. Hospice care ensures that a patient will be comfortable and safe as their health and abilities change. Contact WV Caring for access and information about hospice services that provide:
- A program of coordinated care for persons with a serious illness.
- A team approach of care that involves the patient, their doctor, plus the hospice nurse, home health aide, social worker, chaplain and volunteers.
- Services available on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- Services are covered through Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance.
This coordinated, comprehensive care is covered by Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurance – including equipment and medicines related to your diagnosis. Everything is provided for your convenience in the place your loved one calls home. Contact us to help your loved one to continue to live comfortably and fully: 1-866-656-9790