Traumatic Brain Injury and the Older Adult

Injury Attorneys | Restoring LivesTM

April 24, 2017 | Brain Injuries |

If you suspect someone you love has experienced a head trauma, erring on the side of caution is always the right answer. The smallest bump can turn into a major problem if it’s unaddressed.

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) sends more than 80,000 older adults to the emergency room every year. And most of them stay: 75% of those visits result in hospital stays. Far and away, falls are the leading cause of these injuries. Changes in body composition makes aging bodies not just unsteadier but more vulnerable to damage from a fall. Because so many older adults use anticoagulants, the risk of hemorrhage after a trauma is much greater than it is for others.

TBI is a “silent epidemic,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Not only do older people often keep mum about accidents, in cases where dementia is a factor, recognizing the signs of an injury becomes more challenging.

If someone you care for falls under the “older adult” umbrella (okay, we’ll define it, just as the CDC does—age 65 and up), pay special attention to signs of a fall, like bruises or cuts. Look for other, less obvious symptoms of brain injury: loss of balance, seeming a little out of it or forgetting, and depression.

Falls aren’t inevitable, however, and exercise is a great way to reduce the odds of taking a spill. When the muscles are stronger and balance is better, a person is much more sure-footed and even able to right herself if she does trip or slip.

A few little household changes also go a long way to preventing falls:

  • Rearrange the cupboards so that everything is reachable without having to rely on a stepstool.
  • Up the wattage of household bulbs so that hazards are plainly visible.
  • And speaking of hazards: Area rugs are not innocent decoration in the home of an older adult. They’re too easy to trip over. Get rid of them or, at a minimum, secure them with double-sided tape. (But, really—get rid of them.)
  • Buy slippers that have gripping soles for inside the house and sturdy shoes with good support everywhere else.
  • Those grab bars you see in hospitals and hotel bathrooms? Install them. They can be a literal lifesaver, as can sturdy handrails in stairways.

In just a decade, 20% of the population will be 65 or older. (May we all be so lucky.) With that increase may come a lot more falls, and so it’s going to be more important than ever to be vigilant about TBI and its effects.

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