Q: One of my oldest friends just had a stroke and isn't doing well. She lives alone and didn't have anyone to catch the warning signs. As a result, the stroke ended up being much worse than it could have been.
My husband is at risk for a stroke of his own because he has high blood pressure and is diabetic.
What should I watch out for at home?
A: With a stroke, the best thing you can do is catch it early. If you arrive to the hospital early enough (generally within three hours of onset), doctors can administer medication to break the blood clot causing the stroke.
Remember the acronym FAST: face drooping, arm weakness, speech difficulty and time.
If your husband is stumbling or struggling to speak or understand, ask him to smile and lift both his arms. Look for imbalance; asymmetric strength is a hallmark of strokes.
Severe, inexplicable headaches can also be a warning sign.
Pay special attention around wake-up time and early evening. Scientists have found that strokes are most likely to happen between 6 a.m. and 8 a.m. or between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.
It's better to be safe than sorry. If you suspect he's having a stroke, get medical attention. — Emma, Doug's granddaughter
Q: My mother seems like she's losing it.
She's been alone since my dad died two years ago and hasn't been thriving since. She's losing things like her wallet and keys almost every day. Last week, she had her water shut off because she lost her bill statement and forgot to take care of it.
I was able to go over and help take care of it, but the problem seemed like a wake-up call. Dealing with the immediate problem doesn't fulfill her ongoing needs.
I have two other siblings, but I'm closest and I still live 30 to 40 minutes away. I know I can't be there for her all the time.
Even though she's clearly having problems, I'm worried that I'm overreacting. She's always been very independent, and I don't want to force her into premature change.
How old is too old to be left alone?
A: It depends on the individual. Look for warning signs, rather than choosing a certain age.
Aging is a very individual process, so there's no standard age for seniors to need daily help and supervision. Some people experience a quick decline in their 70s, while others remain independent well into their 80s.
The most important markers to watch out for relate to your mom's health. Does she eat enough food and keep hydrated? Is her home hygienic? Has she had a bad fall?
Aside from health, the other issues are less concerning. Look for practical solutions, like bill autopay. A little assistance can go a long way to help your mom remain independent.
The loss of a spouse or partner acts as an aging catalyst for many seniors. After a while, they stop caring for themselves, triggering a rapid decline and loss of higher functioning.
Create a support network to help your mom avoid falling through the cracks. The more people in her orbit, the less likely she is to be neglected in a time of need.
Does she have any friends or friendly neighbors who see her more regularly? If they're willing to keep you in the loop, they can share important info and may have a better perspective on her day-to-day functioning. — Doug
Doug Mayberry makes the most of life in a Southern California retirement community. Contact him at [email protected] Emma, Doug's granddaughter, helps write this column. To find out more about Doug Mayberry and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.