The topic of brain injury in seniors is a challenging topic to discuss for those who are not familiar with the topic. A great number of Americans suffer a traumatic brain injury (TBI) each year. According to the CDC, the figure is estimated at 1.5 million people annually. Of these, around 155,000 TBIs are attributed to seniors.
Some of the TBIs that affect seniors are unavoidable, since they develop as a result of injuries sustained years earlier. But other brain injuries could possibly be prevented by fall-proofing the home environment.
Since March is National Brain Injury Awareness Month let’s look at some of the causes of brain injury in seniors.
Causes of Brain Injuries in Seniors
Many sources report that the leading causes of brain injury in seniors are falls and motor accidents.
Percentage of TBIs in seniors over the age of 65 years:
- Falls account for 51%
- Traffic accidents account for 9% of TBIs (includes drivers/passengers/pedestrians)
- 17% arise from “known causes”
- 21% occurs from “unknown causes”
- Around 8% of seniors aged 65 and older, visit the emergency room annually in connection with a fall.
- While hospitalized, the patients average 1.5 falls per bed, says a study.
- Around 10% of falls in seniors lead to complications such as brain injury, making falls statistically the leading cause of TBIs in seniors.
What Should A Concerned Individual Do?
National Brain Injury Awareness Month has been running for around 30 years. Its primary purpose is to educate the public to the needs of people who have brain injury. It also increases public awareness of how frequently the injuries occur.
When faced with a challenge, one response is to mourn. A better response is to take action. Let’s try and learn about what we can do to prevent brain injury in seniors.
We will address the two main causes of brain injury.
Older Drivers – Heads Up!
‘Older drivers’ are over-represented in motor vehicle accidents. Senior drivers are more likely to have issues with vision, slower reflexes, and side affects from medication. In order to avoid traffic accidents, seniors should always take the recommended annual checks for older drivers.
It takes a certain amount of bravery, and a tremendous amount of self-honesty, to do those checks. Driving, for many seniors, means independence. It is hard for a person to give up their independence. But it is always better to be alive and healthy, than to be struggling to recover from a crash.
If you, or a senior you know are driving as an older driver, drive responsibly and safely. Read up and research what you need tested for this purpose.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation
Fall Prevention – We Cannot Become Complacent
Don’t ignore and hope it won’t happen to you.
Make an appointment with your doctor and speak it out. Discuss three things:
(a) Medications that you take
(b) Whether you have fallen in the past
(c) Other health issues that you have
These 3 things indicate whether you should be more focused on fall prevention.
Physical movement prevents falls.
A person should exercise in keeping with their health and fitness. Your doctor might refer you to a physical therapist.
Wearing protective, supportive footwear.
Avoid walking without protective footwear. Choose shoes that are non-skid and fit well.
Fall-proof your home.
Move or remove objects that might be a tripping hazard. Look around the home with a beady eye to notice which items could present danger. Clear spills and things that are lying around right away. Store items within reach so you do not need to climb on chairs or ladder to get them.
Let light be your friend.
Light up dark corners. Switch on the lights when moving from room to room or using the stairs. Have emergency lighting installed or have pre-charged flashlights available.
Assistive devices – support you and prevent falls.
Using a cane or walker when necessary, will support you. Get bars and rails installed in your bathroom or along stairways. A doctor can refer you to an occupational therapist for more specific ideas.
Favorite Ideas Among Seniors
Discussing this delicate topic with your doctor or with friends will yield a host of ideas.
For example, low-impact exercise or swimming might be a solution for fall-free exercising. You could do this alone, or in a seniors swimming or exercise group. Walking together with a friend is another way to get exercise safely, with an added social element.
The Obvious…Can be Repeated
- Don’t drive under the influence of alcohol.
- Always wear a seatbelt when in a moving vehicle.
- If you ride a bicycle, wear a helmet.
- Don’t text while you are walking or driving.
- If you have a fall, get checked out right away.
Follow the directives from the CDC for preventing brain injuries. Yes, prevention is better than cure.
We know that necessity is the mother of invention. And when it comes to preventing brain injury in seniors, awareness is the mother of prevention!