When you think of a traumatic brain injury (TBI), your first thought is likely to be a sports-related accident, such as a football player crashing head-first into a rival, or perhaps a head-on collision in a car accident – something less likely to impact senior loved ones. Nevertheless, the prevalence of traumatic head injuries in seniors is far more common than you might assume. In truth, among the leading causes of TBIs is falls – which we all know are also one of several leading reasons behind significant head injuries among older adults.
Traumatic brain injury is classified as mild, moderate, or severe, according to various criteria: if the individual who incurred the injury was rendered unconscious, and if so, how long the state of unconsciousness continued, combined with the degree of symptom severity. No matter what 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, and the inability to remember the events related to the injury
- Difficulties 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, a senior loved one generally maintains a state of consciousness, or if unconsciousness is experienced, it is no more than 30 minutes in duration. A moderate TBI is diagnosed when unconsciousness lasts more than 30 minutes but under 24 hours, while a severe TBI results from more than a day of unconsciousness. Symptoms are usually similar regardless of the level of injury; however, they are much more serious and last longer as the severity increases.
With up to 775,000 current senior TBI survivors, it’s highly recommended to take the appropriate steps now to make sure your loved ones stay safe, specifically from falls. These precautionary measures will help:
- Evaluate the home environment and fix any fall hazards such as throw rugs, extension cords, any clutter or furniture hindering walking paths, and insufficient lighting.
- Ensure senior loved ones make use of a cane or walker at all times when advised by the physician, to compensate for any muscular or balance deficits.
- Speak with the physician about any potential medication side effects that could bring about dizziness or drowsiness, each 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.
Compassionate Nursing Services can assist in a variety of ways, from in-home safety appraisals to prevent falls, to highly individualized care for seniors dealing with all the challenges of a TBI, as well as other conditions. Call us at 314-432-4312 for a free in-home assessment and also to find out more about how we can help with our professional home health care in St. Louis and the surrounding areas.