Heads Up: Prevent Brain Injury
March is Brain Injury Awareness Month so “feed your head” and read about the causes of brain injury and what you can do to prevent them.
Serious risk for older adults: You don’t need to be a superhero to know that falls are the major cause of head injury in older adults. A common scenario - a senior loses balance and falls, resulting in a blow to the head. This type of injury is called a “concussion” or “traumatic brain injury” (TBI) and can range from mild to severe. Those 75 and older have the highest rates of TBI, recover more slowly and die more often from these injuries.
Caregiver alert: Statistically, most injuries will be mild and cause no permanent damage. But for those unlucky few, the results can be long lasting and require round-the-clock caregiving. More often in older adults, a simple spill can cause serious complications, like a blood clot on the brain. The senior may become confused or develop a severe headache, symptoms that may often be misdiagnosed.
Be aware – know the signs: If your senior has a head injury and develops any of these symptoms, call a doctor right away:
- Headaches or neck pain that won’t go away
- Trouble with mental tasks such as remembering, concentrating or decision-making
- Slow thinking, speaking, acting or reading
- Getting lost or easily confused
- Feeling tired all the time, having no energy or motivation
- Mood changes (feeling sad or angry for no reason)
- Changes in sleep patterns (sleeping a lot more or having a hard time sleeping)
- Feeling light-headed or dizzy, or losing balance
- An urge to vomit (nausea)
- Increased sensitivity to lights, sounds or distractions
- Blurred vision or eyes that tire easily
- Loss of sense of smell or taste
- Ringing in the ears
Fall prevention checklist: No need to bury your head in the sand - the best way to protect you and the elders you know is to prevent falls from happening in the first place. Here are some simple things you can do today to avoid falls:
- Use a step stool with a grab bar to reach objects on high shelves
- Install handrails on stairways
- Remove tripping hazards such as small area rugs and loose electrical cords
- Use non-slip mats in the bathtub and on shower floors
- Put grab bars next to the toilet and in the tub or shower
- Maintain a regular exercise program (try Tai Chi) to improve strength, balance, and coordination
- See an eye doctor regularly for a vision check – seniors often can’t see very well. Also provide better or more illumination like night lights, glow-in-the-dark light switches and bright light bulbs
- The wrong prescription drugs may cause dizziness - have a pharmacist review them for any possible interactions or other problems
For further info on preventing head injuries and falls, check out our checklist for preventing falls.