When you think about a traumatic brain injury (TBI), your initial thought may very well be a sports-related accident, such as a football player crashing head-first into a rival, or perhaps a head-on collision in an auto accident – something less likely to affect senior loved ones. Yet the prevalence of traumatic brain injuries in seniors is much more frequent than you might presume. In fact, among the leading reasons for TBIs is falls – which we all know are also one of the leading factors behind severe injury in older adults.
Traumatic brain injury is classified as mild, moderate, or severe, based on numerous criteria: whether or not the individual who sustained the injury was rendered unconscious, and if so, how long the state of unconsciousness continued, combined with the degree of symptom severity. Regardless of the classification, a TBI may have long-lasting and significant effects on the elderly. Symptoms vary from one person to another, but can sometimes include any or all of the following:
- Confusion, disorientation, as well as the inability to remember the events associated with the injury
- Problems with remembering new information and/or with speaking coherently
- Headache and/or dizziness
- Blurred vision
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- A ringing sound in the ears
- Emotional and/or sleep disturbances
In a mild TBI, or concussion, the individual typically retains a state of consciousness, or if unconsciousness is experienced, it is no more than half an hour in duration. A moderate TBI is diagnosed when unconsciousness lasts more than half an hour but less than twenty-four hours, while a severe TBI results from over a day of unconsciousness. Symptoms are typically similar regardless of the level of injury; however, they are more serious and last for much longer while the severity also increases.
With as many as 775,000 current senior TBI survivors, it’s essential to make a plan now to ensure your loved ones remain safe, especially from falls. These precautionary measures can help:
- Assess the home environment and fix any fall hazards such as throw rugs, extension cords, any clutter or furniture obstructing walking paths, and lack of lighting.
- Make sure that seniors make use of a cane or walker at all times when recommended by the doctor, to compensate for any muscular or balance deficits.
- Talk to a doctor about any potential medication side effects which could result in dizziness or drowsiness, both of which heighten fall risk.
- Make sure the senior you love receives at least annual eye exams and that corrective lenses are always worn when prescribed.
Abby Senior Care, a provider of in-home care in Denver, CO and the surrounding areas, can assist in lots of ways, from in-home safety assessments to avoid falls, to highly tailored care for seniors dealing with all the difficulties of a TBI, as well as other conditions. Call us at 303-699-8840 for a no cost in-home assessment and to learn how a professional caregiver can help older adults live life to the fullest, each and every day. See our full service area here.