As our parents and grandparents age, we may already be aware that they are at greater risk for slip and fall types of injuries. Often, we think of a broken bone, especially a hip or spinal fracture being common from these types of falls.
One category of injury from falls among the elderly that you might not be aware of is that of traumatic brain injury (TBI). TBI is, in fact, a very serious health concern for seniors. According to SeniorJournal.com, approximately 22% of all TBI-related hospitalizations involve adults aged 75 years and older, and males are more often diagnosed with TBI than are females (59%).
Ileana Arias, director of the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease Control, was quoted in the web article as saying that “falls are the leading causes of TBI.” She went on to describe a Traumatic Brain Injury as being “caused by a bump, blow or jolt to the head that affects how the brain normally works.”
“Adults ages 75 and older have the highest rates of TBI-related hospitalizations and death, tend to recover more slowly or die more often from these injuries than do younger people,” says Dr. Arias.
As opposed to a broken bone, the symptoms of a TBI can be subtle, and, therefore, missed for days or even weeks. TBI symptoms such as confusion, speaking or thinking slowly or becoming lost are also symptoms associated with aging and dementia, and therefore not as easily identified as a problem in an elderly person. It is essential to have a senior evaluated for TBI by a healthcare professional if they have sustained a fall or an injury relating to a fall.
Of course, preventing the fall to begin with is the best way to prevent TBI. Here are some of Dr. Arias’ recommendations to help prevent falls in the first place:
Exercise is important as it improves balance and coordination, preventing the likelihood of a fall.
- Make home and surroundings safer by making modifications such as placing frequently used items within reach, installing grab bars next to the toilet and in the shower/tub.
- Ask the senior’s health care provider to review all medications – both prescription and over-the-counter, as the way some medicines can work in the body can change as a person ages.
- Have vision checked regularly. Poor vision can lead to falls.
Also, as the winter months begin to draw near, please make sure to clear snow and ice from the walkways and driveways of seniors’ homes.