Each year, about one-quarter of all seniors experience a fall. While many will get up relatively unscathed, others will suffer severe injuries, including traumatic brain injuries related to concussions. Because seniors often never mention they’ve taken a fall, certain symptoms can become easy to overlook.
But a concussion in the elderly after a fall can be quite dangerous, especially if proper protocols aren’t followed or necessary treatment isn’t received. As such, it’s often worth learning how to identify common concussion symptoms in elderly folks. It can also be worth evaluating or reevaluating what you can do to prevent concussions in the first place.
Signs of Concussion in Elderly Adults
Signs and symptoms of concussion in elderly folks can be mistaken with symptoms of dementia, low blood pressure, vertigo, or even stroke. In fact, concussions can have so many symptoms in common with other illnesses experienced by the elderly that diagnosing them can be quite challenging.
But the symptoms of concussion in the elderly after a fall cover three main areas: emotional symptoms, cognitive symptoms, and physical symptoms.
Emotionally, seniors with a concussion might experience anxiety, sadness, irritability, or moodiness. Cognitively, they can have a harder time concentrating or remembering new information. And physically, they might experience headaches, nausea, fatigue, balance issues, difficulty sleeping, or heightened sensitivity to sensory stimulation like noise.
Concussion Protocol for Seniors
A mild concussion will recover with two or three days of rest, provided you get plenty of sleep and avoid stimulating activities in preference for relaxing ones. But during that time, you’ll want to follow a few guidelines.
Similar to young adults, concussions in elderly patients over-the-counter NSAIDs should be avoided as they can dilate blood vessels and increase the risk of a brain hemorrhage. It’s also a bad idea to use drugs that affect the cardiovascular system like alcohol or caffeine.
Some concussions will resolve on their own, but untreated concussions can also have negative consequences, including the effects of cumulative brain injuries, post-traumatic vertigo or headaches, or even post-concussion syndrome. You’ll want to seek medical attention if you find an abrupt and significant change in a person’s mental or physical abilities, and you’ll want to schedule a medical exam if there was any serious chance that injury took place.
The last thing to keep in mind is that the symptoms of a concussion can take days to appear, during which time it’s important to remain vigilant about looking for symptoms.
Handling Concussion in Elderly Folks
Concussions in elderly patients are modestly different from those experienced by older adults. For instance, seniors recover from brain injuries slower than young people, and older folks are more likely to be admitted to a hospital for a concussion. But if you follow proper concussion protocols for seniors, there’s usually nothing to worry about.
As for avoiding concussions, it’s usually a matter of taking simple precautions. That might include regular exercise to reduce the risk of suffering a fall, having a good pair of non-grip shoes, and ensuring rugs, shoes, pets, and other floor-level things are secure.