October is Brain Injury Awareness Month. You may be more aware of this issue because of the recent publicity focused on brain injury in skiers, football players and boxers.
Unfortunately, brain injury doesn’t just happen to athletes. Adults over the age of 65 are particularly at risk of suffering traumatic brain injury because of falls, which occur more often as we age.
In fact, according to the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in people 65 and older.
Falls are a significant risk for older adults: one in three adults over 65 fall each year. Those who have fallen are at greater risk of falling again.
Among Americans age 65 and over, traumatic brain injuries due to falls caused nearly 8,000 deaths and 56,000 hospitalizations in 2005, when a special study was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
By helping reduce your loved ones’ risk of falls, and recognizing the signs of brain injury after a fall occurs, you can help prevent serious lasting injury or death of your loved one.
Reduce the Risk of Falls
- Remove items from the floor that might cause your loved one to trip: take special note of electrical wires and low-lying tables, which can be hard to see
- Remove rugs, or use double-sided rug tape to make sure they don’t slip
- Install grab bars in the bathrooms
- Look for dark corners, and brighten them up with lamps
- Make sure staircases are well-lit and have handrails
- Make sure your loved one wears sturdy shoes with traction–no slippers!
- Have a thorough medical and ophthalmologic examination
- Engage in daily weight-bearing and flexibility exercises
- Make sure to take the correct amounts of calcium and vitamin D
What are the signs of brain injury?
- A headache that won’t go away
- Having trouble concentrating, remembering things, or general mental fogginess
- Becoming easily confused
- A lack of energy
- Loss of balance, and feeling light-headed or dizzy
- Blurred vision or eyes that quickly tire
- Loss of sense of taste or smell
- Ringing in the ears
- Increased sensitivity to light or sounds.
- Mood changes such as feeling anxious, sad, or irritated and angry
- Vomiting or nausea
- Dilation of one of both pupils
- Inability to wake up from sleeping
- Slurred speech
- Numbness in the arms or legs
- Loss of coordination
If your loved one is experiencing any of the symptoms listed above, you should take him or her to a doctor right away. Any adults that take blood thinners and receive a bump or blow to the head should be taken to the doctor immediately, even if they don’t show the signs above. Immediate medical attention can help prevent long-term damage associated with brain injury.
With a double dose of prevention and awareness of the signs of brain injury, you can help keep your loved one safe.
If you would like to receive additional information about falls or to schedule a free in-home visit, contact your local office of Griswold Home Care. A Care Coordinator will be glad to assist you.
Have you had experience caring for a loved one with a brain injury? Share your story with us in the comments below.
For more information, please review our Brain Injury Resources.