FAST: The Acronym Every Senior and Everyone Who Is Around Seniors Should Know

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a stroke happens every 40 seconds. They take the lives of over 140,000 Americans every year—at the pace of 1 person every 4 minutes.

Seniors are more prone to strokes, and quick medical treatment is absolutely necessary to increase survival. What does FAST have to do with strokes? Here’s what you need to know.

Early Action

The chances that you will survive a stroke increase when you receive emergency treatment as soon as possible. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that people who get treatment within 3 hours of the first symptoms of a stroke experience less disability than those who receive delayed care.

The CDC also reports that nearly 75% of all strokes occur in people over the age of 65, making it the 5th leading cause of death in our country. The American Heart Association reports that while the percentage of strokes has increased as a result of heart disease, the actual number of stroke deaths has declined. This is largely due to FAST.

What is a Stroke?

Strokes occur when the blood flow to a certain area of the brain gets cut off. The cells in this area of the brain begin to die because they are starved of oxygen. The resulting damage causes loss of muscle control or memory. Serious strokes are fatal.

Here’s the thing about a stroke: they may not be obvious. Television and movies may be entertaining, but they aren’t always realistic. Transient ischemic attacks—also known as mini strokes—have symptoms that are short-lived or may even spontaneously resolve.

FAST

There are 4 common signs of a stroke, and that’s where FAST comes in. These symptoms often appear suddenly, so if you see them in a senior—or someone of any age—it’s important to get immediate medical help.

  • Face: Ask them to smile. Does it appear uneven?
  • Arms: Ask them to raise both arms and hold them level to the floor. Does one arm drift downwards?
  • Speech: Ask them to repeat a simple phrase, like “Let’s have tacos for lunch today.” Do they slur their words, or maybe even miss a few?
  • Time: This isn’t a symptom—it’s a reminder of what to do. Fast medical treatment is crucial. It’s time to call for emergency medical help.

Make a note of the time if you should happen to notice any of the FAST symptoms. This piece of information is important to medical professionals. Clot-busting drugs called tissue plasminogen activators reduce long-term disability for certain kinds of strokes. This type of medication, however, is approved for stroke treatment only if given within 3 hours of the onset of symptoms.

Take As Prescribed: Why Seniors Fail To Follow Medication Schedules

It’s not just seniors. The New York Times reports that at least half of the medications for chronic diseases simply aren’t taken as prescribed. That’s a serious issue for a person of any age, but it can have even worse consequences for seniors. It’s estimated that 10% of hospitalizations for seniors happen annually because of missing medication doses.

Here are the three main reasons why seniors decide not to take medication prescribed to them, and suggestions on what to do about it.

1. They have difficulty understanding the cost

Not all prescription medications are expensive, but much of it is. Many seniors know that they are on a fixed and limited income, and sometimes they decide it’s a better idea to take less than what has been prescribed.

While it may make the prescription last longer, it can make the benefits of the medicine far less effective—or even totally ineffective. If it’s possible, find out whether this is why a senior is skipping taking their medications. It may be necessary to have a frank discussion with them, reminding them that they’re really not saving money. It will cost far more in hospital or medical bills if their condition is not kept in check.

2. They don’t believe there’s any benefit

Serious health conditions like a heart attack or kidney failure often have a long recovery period. During that time, it may not seem as if the daily medications prescribed are doing anything at all. Seniors may start to lose faith that they indeed will get better. Even worse, taking regular medications is a daily reminder that they are not well.

Keep an ongoing dialog with seniors about the medications they’re taking. Remind them that the medicine works best with a healthy diet and lifestyle changes. Point out improvements you see, which they may not. This can help to associate taking the medication with gradual health improvements.

3. They think there’s no longer any reason to take it

Sometimes it seems like a waste of time—and money—to take a medication if you’re feeling better. That’s always a decision best left to a health professional. Often, medications must continue to be taken even after a senior recovers from a health crisis.

No one is likely to appreciate hearing that they’ll have to take a daily medication for the rest of their lives. Seniors may exercise curiosity and decide to stop taking a medication to see if it changes the way they’re feeling. And, they probably will continue to feel fine for the short term.

The problem with this false sense of wellbeing is that they won’t really be able to determine whether drugs that treat conditions like heart disease or high blood pressure are working or not. Many health conditions in the elderly have few or no noticeable symptoms.

The most important thing to remember as a caregiver is that most seniors do not purposely skip medications with the intention of harming themselves. Many times, they simply need a reminder or reassurance that it the medication really is good for them, regardless of what they can or can’t feel.

A Better Night’s Sleep? Tips For Seniors.

You’ve probably heard it said that the older you get, the less sleep you need. It’s why seniors are such early birds. There’s another reason why seniors get up early, and often wake up repeatedly all night. 

Often, seniors in nursing care homes are living with chronic pain. Sleeping in a position that doesn’t support their body creates pressure that amplifies the pain. A better night’s sleep can be as close as applying a few of these simple tips to align and support the body.

Start with Comfort and Alignment

When we’re younger, an aligned and neutral sleeping position keeps our spines straight and our lower backs in a natural slightly curved position. This comfortable alignment may not work for seniors.

Kyphosis, or rounded back will prevent seniors from being able to lie flat on their back. For them, an aligned and neutral sleeping position is going to be on their side with their spine supported for a curve—rather than straightened.

Some of the tips offered here call for pillows. Try a folded blanket or a rolled towel before you invest in additional pillows.

Are They a Side Sleeper?

  • Reduce pressure on the upper shoulder by adding a pillow under that arm
  • Use enough pillows to raise the head and maintain a neutral position that aligns the spine with the neck
  • Add a pillow between the knees to align the pelvis, hips, and spine

Are They a Back Sleeper?

  • Use a thin pillow under the head to prevent forward bending of the neck
  • Add a pillow under the knees, which will help to keep the lower back in a neutral position

Are They a Stomach Sleeper?

Sleeping on your stomach isn’t a good idea because it’s hard on the back—but many people prefer this position.

  • Seniors with degenerative disk disease may prefer this position because it offers ease from the pain
  • Consider not using a pillow at all for their head
  • Instead, put a thin pillow under the stomach or pelvis areas

Do They Prefer a Reclining Chair Instead of a Bed?

Sleeping in this position helps relieve the pain of isthmic spondylolisthesis, which seniors can suffer from. The reclined position helps to remove pressure on the spine.

  • You can mimic a reclining chair by using a bed wedge. It’s less expensive than an adjustable bed

Helping seniors to get a good night’s sleep has an important additional benefit. You’ll finally get some rest, too.

Just What Is a Residential Care Home, Anyway?

There are a growing number of options for senior citizens when they reach the point where it’s not wise to be without assistance. The most obvious option is a nursing home, but that really may not be necessary yet.

Many seniors simply need some help. For them, there’s the option of a residential care home. Here’s what a residential care home is, and why this option deserves your consideration.

Right Under Your Nose

Is your idea of a nursing home a large building on a grassy campus somewhere out in the country? That description may fit a number of nursing homes, but you’ll generally find them scattered in both urban and suburban areas.

What might surprise you about residential care homes is that you’ll find them right in the middle of residential neighborhoods. There could be one not far from your home. That’s because residential care homes are exactly what their names say. They are private residential homes that that provide care to small groups of senior citizens. The size of the home determines how many seniors reside there. In California where residential care homes are plentiful, most have 6 or less residents.

Less, But More

Traditional nursing homes generally provide high levels of care for residents, provided by skilled nursing professionals. Assisted living facilities offer the least care for residents. Residential care homes tend to fall in between. They offer more comprehensive and personalized care because the staff is responsible for just a few residents.

Residential care homes can offer high levels of care for chronically ill seniors, or they may offer only general supervision and help with the activities of daily living. It’s up to the owners, and it’s why it’s important to find out exactly what a residential care home’s range of services is before you make a decision.

Best For

People often ask who would enjoy or benefit most from living in a residential care home. They are a wise option for seniors who strongly oppose the idea of a large, institutional type of living situation such as a nursing home.

Residential care homes offer older adults the ability to live relatively independent lives. They may not be able to live completely on their own, but they still value the ability to make decisions about things like shopping, dining out, going for walks, or even having friends and family visit.

Older adults with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia also benefit from living in a residential care home. Living in a smaller place, say, the size of a residential home, can cause less anxiety and stress. Residents also get more personalized care because staff members get to know their specific needs.

They say you can’t pick the family you’re born into—but as you grow older you can select a group of people to live with who can surround you with the benefits of a family. That’s the idea behind a residential care home.