Traumatic brain injury, or TBI, can happen to anyone, at any age. A fall, car accident, sports injury, or myriad of other incidents may cause brain damage, spanning the spectrum from mild to severe. For young and old, recovery from this type of injury can be difficult; for the elderly, recovery is particularly hard.
Why Are the Elderly At High Risk?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that almost 8,000 Americans aged 65 and older died and 56,000 were hospitalized in 2005 because of TBI from a fall. Elderly people are more likely to fall than younger people for the following reasons:
- Mobility problems caused by muscle weakness or poor balance
- Loss of sensation in the feet
- Chronic health conditions
- Vision changes or loss
- Side effects of medication or drug interaction
- Environmental hazards, such as clutter or poor lighting
The National Center for Health Statistics, National Vital Statistics System, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Nationwide Inpatient Sample garnered the following information about fall-related TBIs among the elderly:
- More elderly men than women died from fall-related TBIs—approximately 27 and 18 per 100,000, respectively
- The hospitalization rates for fall-related TBIs were similar for men and women, at about 146 and 158 per 100,000, respectively
- The number of deaths and hospitalizations for fall-related TBIs increases with age
Ways to Help Prevent TBIs in the Elderly
Because falls are the leading cause of TBIs among elderly people, the best way to prevent TBIs is to decrease the likelihood of falling for these individuals. Here are some suggestions from the CDC:
- Encourage exercise. With the approval and guidance of his or her physician, help the senior to begin a regular exercise program. Strength training combined with exercises that improve balance and coordination can reduce the elderly person’s risk of falling, as well as help them to feel better physically and emotionally.
- Make the home or surroundings safer. Almost half of falls among the elderly occur at home. Keep items off the floor that could cause someone to trip. Remove throw rugs, or use double-sided tape to keep them from slipping. Keep frequently used items within reach. Have grab bars installed in the tub or shower and next to the toilet. Place nonslip mats on tub or shower floors. Have plenty of good lighting throughout the home. Ensure that all stairways are well lit and have sturdy handrails. Make sure that the senior wears shoes that provide good support and have thin, non-slip soles.
- Ask the healthcare provider to review all medicines. Compile a list of all prescription and over-the-counter medications—including vitamins, pain relievers, cold medicine, and other supplements—that the elderly person takes. The way medicines work in the body changes as people age, possibly causing drowsiness or dizziness that could lead to a fall.
- Take the person in your care for a vision check. A person who has trouble seeing is more likely to fall. Have the senior checked for vision changes and conditions such as cataracts and glaucoma that can impair the ability to see.
If an elderly person that you love has suffered a brain injury in Kentucky due to someone else’s actions or negligence, contact a Louisville brain injury lawyer at Gray and White Law. Call us at 502-210-8942 or toll-free at 888-450-4456 to set up a FREE, no-obligation consultation.