Stroke can cause several health problems
Being aware of these can help you recognise them early or even prevent your loved one getting them
Swallowing is a complex task which requires the brain to coordinate lots of different muscles. A stroke can affect the ability to do this.
An impaired swallow, referred to as dysphagia, can cause food to go down the windpipe instead of traveling through the gullet and into the stomach. It can enter the lungs, called aspiration. Aspiration can lead to a pneumonia.
A clean mouth reduces the risk of oral infection which can make swallowing painful. Medicine aside, it just makes you feel a little better.
Nurses should perform regular mouth care on the wards if required. Brushing demonstrates good mobility at the shoulder, an electric toothbrush makes it easter. A chlorhexidine-based mouthwash can be used to prevent or treat oral infection in the short-term.
The lack of mobility combined with reduced oral intake makes constipation a common problem after a stroke.
Incontinence may also occur. Constipation can be a cause of urinary incontinence if faeces are pressing on the bladder. In this case treating the constipation should solve the problem. Pads help manage accidents and can be easily changed to maintain dignity.
A delirium is an acute state of confusion. It can be triggered by several things and is common in the elderly. Having a stroke itself can cause it as can constipation - we take poo very seriously.
If there’s a sudden change in behaviour, either agitation or withdrawal, along with a deterioration in cognition then a delirium should be ruled out.
It can take weeks to months to resolve and the treatment is to address the underlying cause. If stroke itself is the cause then the confusion may settle once the brain begins to recover from injury.
Unlike delirium, dementia is long-term cognitive impairment that gets worse over time.
Vascular dementia can occur as a result of several small strokes, each of these will cause a sudden decline in cognition. Someone may have had several small strokes over a period of months before the dementia is obvious.
Having a loved one who’s suffered a stroke is hard enough, to have this followed by a dementia process is devastating. The combination of these make it highly likely that this person will need 24 hour care.
We’ve seen patients and their family members go through this and it’s heartbreaking. We sincerely hope this doesn’t apply to you but if it does then please you reach out for support.