If you have an elderly parent, you should know what happens when a senior suffers a stroke.

A stroke occurs when blood flow is lost to part of the brain, sometimes due to a blood clot that blocks an artery or a bleed from a blood vessel that creates pressure in the brain. Unfortunately, strokes commonly occur in seniors due to their age and preexisting health conditions.

When someone has a stroke, brain cells die, and as a result, the brain may risk temporary or permanent damage. Depending on the area of the brain deprived of oxygen, a person may experience symptoms including loss of memory, movement, speech, or other disabilities. 

Keep reading to learn the risks, signs, and symptoms of strokes and what you can do to prevent them.

Types of Strokes

There are two types of strokes: ischemic and hemorrhagic. Both types vary in what happens when a senior suffers a stroke.

Ischemic Stroke

An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks blood flow to the brain. The clot may come from another part of the body (embolus) or form inside an artery that supplies blood to the brain (thrombus).

An ischemic stroke is the most common type of stroke. Medications that dissolve a clot can prevent severe damage if given early enough after symptoms appear.

Hemorrhagic Stroke

A hemorrhagic stroke is less common than an ischemic stroke but more deadly. When a blood vessel in the brain breaks due to weakness in the vessel wall, blood flows around the brain and creates swelling and pressure. This bleeding damages brain cells and tissue. 

The physician needs to determine which type of stroke has occurred because treatments are quite different for both.

Causes of a Stroke

A wide range of conditions can cause a stroke. Certain risk factors can increase the likelihood of a stroke occurring. We outlined specific causes below:

Cerebral Causes

  • Cerebrovascular disease, driven by hypertension, high cholesterol, or diabetes
  • Brain aneurysm
  • Arteriovenous malformation (AVM)
  • Vasospasm occurs when an artery suddenly spasms

Cardiac Causes 

  • Arrhythmia: an irregular heart rhythm that can promote the formation of a blood clot
  • Heart attack: a sudden reduction in heart function that may lead to a blood clot
  • Carotid artery disease
  • Hypertension/long-term high blood pressure

Systemic Causes

  • Hypotension, often caused by blood loss or dehydration
  • High doses of medication that affects blood clotting
  • Street drugs, such as cocaine or methamphetamine
  • Blood clotting disorders
  • Infections that alter a person’s blood clotting ability
  • Inflammatory diseases that affect blood clotting
  • Air embolism: an air bubble that travels from elsewhere in the body to the brain

This list of causes is by no means exhaustive. A qualified doctor can more accurately examine a stroke victim to identify the exact cause.

11 Risk Factors of a Stroke

Several risk factors increase the likelihood of a stroke. These risk factors can be either controllable or uncontrollable leading to what happens when a senior suffers a stroke. We’ve listed the most common risk factors below:

1) High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is controllable through lifestyle changes and medications. Lifestyle changes to lower blood pressure include losing weight, adopting a healthy diet, exercising, lifting weights, limiting alcohol, and minimizing stress.

2) Smoking

Smoking increases the risk of stroke immensely through the combination of carbon monoxide and nicotine. 

3) Diabetes

Individuals with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes should work hard to control their blood sugar and reduce their risk of stroke. 

4) Diet

Diets high in saturated fats, trans fats, and cholesterol can greatly increase the risk of a stroke. 

5) Physical Inactivity

Lack of movement or exercise can significantly increase the risk of stroke. Try to get at least 150 minutes of activity each week through activities such as walking, running, or any other activity that gets you out of the chair.

6) Obesity

Being overweight drastically increases the risk of stroke. Losing just five to ten pounds can greatly reduce the chance of a stroke occurring.

7) High Blood Cholesterol

High blood cholesterol can build up and cause blood clots, leading to stroke. 

8) Age

The likelihood of a stroke increases with age among both men and women. While it is more common in the elderly, it may occur in people under 65.

9) Family History

A close relative who has a stroke, including a grandparent, parent, brother, or sister, can increase the chances of you having a stroke.

10) Gender

On average, women are more likely than men to have a stroke. Factors that increase the likelihood of a woman having a stroke include prior pregnancies, the use of birth control, and post-menopausal hormonal therapy.

11) Prior Stroke, Heart Attack, or TIA

An individual who has had a prior stroke, heart attack, or transient ischemic attack (TIA) is much more likely to have a stroke than someone who has not.

Do you need a caregiver to help an elderly stroke victim in your life?

Explore Our Services

Caring for an Elderly Person After a Stroke

Depending on the severity of the stroke, care for a victim can range from minimal to round-the-clock care. Loss of function varies depending on the part of the brain. Common problems resulting from a stroke include:

  • Weakness or total paralysis of the arm, hand or leg, or an entire side of the body
  • Decreased ability to concentrate on tasks
  • Difficulty expressing ideas or understanding others
  • Trouble swallowing or speaking
  • Struggles with balance
  • Memory problems
  • Emotional changes, including anxiety, frustration, or grief
  • Depression
  • Lack of awareness of the loss of function after a stroke
  • Vision problems
  • Difficulty controlling the bowel or bladder

Treatment for a stroke involves a team of physicians, nurses, and therapists. It typically includes at least one treatment after what happens when a senior suffers a stroke:

1) Physical Therapy

Physical therapy focuses on improving the patient’s balance and coordination and strengthening the legs. It can also include walking, sitting, lying down, stair and wheelchair training.

2) Occupational Therapy

Occupational therapy focuses on retraining the individual on typical everyday tasks, such as dressing, grooming, reading, writing, cooking, and using the toilet.

3) Speech Therapy

This type of therapy focuses on memory, cognition, and speech. Doctors will also work with the patient on any difficulties with swallowing. A stroke survivor should regain some (and sometimes all) language and speaking abilities with time and patience.

The caregiver should outline these treatments, usually with a family member or close relative. The caregiver will need to ensure that the patient attends all of their appointments for therapy and may have to work with the patient outside of doctor’s appointments to assist in their recovery.

The more people devoted to seeing the patient heal, the more likely the patient will recover some (if not all) of their ability to function.

Personality and Behavior Changes After a Stroke

Unfortunately, many people experience personality or behavior changes after a stroke. This development is a common recurrence of what happens when a senior suffers a stroke. These usually involve damage to the brain that occurs when there is a loss of oxygen. Similar to the other problems caused by the stroke, these personality and behavior changes may be either permanent or temporary.

Common personality and behavior changes might include:

1) Mood Swings

Mood swings may occur due to the challenges of recovering from a stroke, or they may involve damage to the brain’s emotional center. You may find that the stroke victim laughs or cries at inappropriate times. Sometimes this condition improves independently, but if it does not, doctors can prescribe medication.

2) Strange Behavior

After a stroke, it is common for patients to display disorganized behavior. Usually, this is due to changes in cognitive and perceptual abilities, and it improves over time as the patient continues their rehabilitation program. However, strange behavior may also be a sign of post-stroke dementia. It’s important to talk to a doctor if you are concerned about your relative’s behavior.

3) Stubborn Behavior

There are two types of stubborn behaviors in a stroke victim. Some patients may be very independent and be unwilling to accept help. This development is great since fiercely independent patients will put the most effort into their recovery and generally improve quickly.

However, patients who deny stroke symptoms may struggle to understand their true condition. They may be in full denial of their disability. Speech and occupational therapists should address this type of stubborn behavior during treatment.

4) Forgetfulness

Often, stroke victims struggle with memory problems, especially in the first weeks of recovery. It’s important to keep a positive attitude and not show too much frustration when forgetting important details. 

Remember that forgetfulness is not purposeful and results from damage to the brain. In time, most stroke victims improve their cognitive abilities, and some fully recover.

5) Aggressive Behavior

Aggressive behavior is typically due to frontal lobe damage and impaired impulse control after a stroke. Regardless of the cause, it’s essential not to subject yourself to physical abuse. If it is occurring, speak to the doctor immediately. They may be able to give your relative medication to control their impulsive behavior.

Keeping It Together

A stroke can be devastating for both the patient and the caregiver. Seeing an elderly parent or relative who fully cared for themselves and had a vibrant life undergo such a sudden change can be traumatic for an adult child or close relative.

It is crucial to share what happens when a senior suffers a stroke. Keep in mind that recovery can be slow and to take each day at a time. Some people may only need a few weeks of rehabilitation, but others may need much more. 

Don’t carry the full burden of their recovery on yourself. If you find that caring for your loved one is too much to handle on your own, it’s important to reach out to other family or friends to get their help as well. It’s also important to stay positive and take time for yourself.

Don’t stop attending events with friends, working, or spending time with other family members. These activities can help you relax and take your mind off the hard work of caring for a sick, elderly relative.

Treatment Resources for Stroke Victims

If you or a loved one has suffered from a stroke, please consult one of the following resources. These hospitals and rehabilitation centers are leading treatment programs for stroke victims.

Hospitals with Dedicated Stroke Programs


Rehabilitation Centers for Stroke Patients

Key Takeaways

It’s also important to take care of your health. Eat healthy, exercise, and take some time each day for a mental break. The healthier you are and the less stressed, the more likely you are to influence the recovery of your elderly relative. Teach your loved ones what happens when a senior suffers a stroke.

It takes a great deal of patience to work through the aftermath of a stroke. Remember that you, other family members, and treatment providers are all working together to ensure the best outcome for your loved one.

If you have questions about taking care of a senior in your life, get in touch with us today!

Get In Touch

Connect With Us



Subscribe to The Caregiver’s Toolbox Podcast


Google Podcasts