It’s rather obvious to say that injuries are more dangerous to the elderly than the young. However, one danger that needs added attention is that of concussions. Older adults recover more slowly from concussions than younger people. For a 20 year old, problems with working memory and other side effects of concussion decline significantly within days or weeks. However, for seniors, symptoms decline much more slowly, or not at all and the damage sustained from the concussion can be more profound and long lasting.
Concussions account for 75 percent of all traumatic brain injuries. People over the age of 75 have the highest rate of suffering concussions, typically resulting from a fall. Slips and falls do become more common with age, and can dramatically change an older person’s ability to live independently. With more and more seniors opting to age in place, it’s important for older people to be aware of the dangers of falls, and for caregivers to enact preventative measures in the homes of their patients.
Injuries from concussions can be wide ranging from mild to severe bruising and torn blood vessels, to nerve damage and unconsciousness. Some seniors display no obvious symptoms of concussion after a fall. Others may appear confused, complain of headaches, dizziness, ringing in their ears, or suffer from nausea and vomiting. Over the course of days, other symptoms may include an increased sensitivity to light or sound, impairment of speech, a difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbances, or a variable heart rate.
Loss of consciousness, vomiting, seizures or altered awareness should signal an emergency and the person should be taken immediately to the emergency room. Caregivers should be very aware of the signs and symptoms of concussion and the level of care needed.
The fact that falling is an increased risk for older people does not mean that it’s inevitable. Simple strategies such as removing household throw rugs and installing grab bars can greatly reduce the risk of falls in the home. Extension cords should be moved out of the way as much as possible. Stretching and balancing exercises can be added to the daily routine of seniors, helping them to stay firmly on their feet by strengthening core muscles. When combined with regular doctor visits, these are among the most important things that can be done to safeguard a senior’s health.
Awareness of the dangers of concussion for seniors is of vital importance for caregivers. If a family member is providing regular care, ensuring the senior has regular checkups with his/her primary care physician is a must. Professional caregivers will be able to conduct an assessment of their patient’s status, and whether additional assistance is needed. Slips and falls are more common now that winter is arriving too. Being well prepared is the key to preventing them and the lifelong damage they can cause.