Recently, actress Angelina Jolie revealed that she is one of the 40,000 people in the United States affected by Bell’s Palsy. Her revelation is drawing new attention to the condition, leaving many to wonder what it is and how it affects those who develop it. Bell’s palsy can affect people of any age, so if you are a family caregiver for an older adult, being aware of the condition and its symptoms will allow you to seek treatment should the need arise.
Bell’s Palsy Affects the Face.
Bell’s palsy is named after a Scottish surgeon by the name of Sir Charles Bell. Bell is responsible for discovering what the facial nerve, or 7th cranial nerve, controlled and how it was related to paralysis in the face. The 7th cranial nerve runs through a bony passage in the skull and is responsible for sensation and movement of muscles in the face. When this nerve is damaged, it causes the muscles in the face to become suddenly weak. Most people with Bell’s palsy have a complete recovery within six months. However, some people have ongoing symptoms that last a lifetime. Bell’s palsy may also reoccur, though it is rare.
Watch for These Signs.
The symptoms of Bell’s palsy vary from one person to the next. For some, the symptoms are quite mild, but others experience severe symptoms and may even have total paralysis. Symptoms of Bell’s palsy include:
- Sudden appearance of muscle weakness or paralysis on one side of the face.
- Drooping in one side of the face, which makes it difficult to smile or close the eyes.
- Jaw pain or pain behind the ear on the affected side of the face.
- Decreased ability to taste.
- Dry eyes or mouth.
The symptoms of Bell’s palsy are sometimes mistaken for a stroke because of the drooping on one side of the face. A stroke is usually accompanied by weakness in other parts of the body. However, if you notice drooping facial muscles and are not sure of the cause, it’s probably best to react as though the person is having a stroke and seek emergency care.
Home Care Can Assist with Symptom Management.
If the senior in your life develops Bell’s palsy, a home care provider can help manage the symptoms. Some of the things a home care provider can do are:
- Protect the Eye. It can be difficult or impossible for the person to close their eye on the affected side. The Mayo Clinic recommends protecting the eye with an eye patch or protective glasses as well as the use of eye drops or ointments. A home care provider can help the senior to apply an eye patch and remind them to use the drops or ointments prescribed.
- Use Moist Heat. A home care provider can help the senior to apply a warm, wet washcloth to the face to help stop pain.
- Physical Therapy. Bell’s palsy is often treated with massage and physical therapy. A home care provider can assist the senior with massage and help with physical therapy.
If the older adult in your life develops Bell’s palsy, early treatment could help to resolve the symptoms sooner. Be mindful of any changes to the way the senior’s face moves and seek help if they complain of pain or lack of sensation.
If you or an aging loved one are considering hiring professional home care in Trussville, AL, call and talk to the staff at Lipford Home Care (205) 623-5700.