March is Brain Injury Awareness Month and BAYADA Home Health Care is sharing these facts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help raise awareness and prevent traumatic brain injury (TBI) in older adults.

The Brain Injury Association says, “a brain injury does not discriminate, in fact, 2.4 million Americans sustain a brain injury each year.” A traumatic brain injury is a blow, jolt, or bump to the head or penetrating head injury that disrupts the normal functions of the brain.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 1.7 million people, including 475,000 children sustain a TBI each year and 3.1 million individuals live with a lifelong disability as a result.

TBI is a special health concern for older adults who begin to struggle with activities of daily living as they age. People ages 75 and older have the highest rates of TBI-related hospitalizations and death. They also recover more slowly and die more often from these injuries than do younger people. Falls are the leading cause of TBI. Assistive or personal care aides can help keep older adults safe at home, supporting families who are unable to provide constant care to their loved ones. 

If you are one of the millions of people in this country caring for an older adult, you should learn about traumatic brain injury and be able to recognize the symptoms of TBI. 

The facts and tips contained in this article are from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Recognizing the symptoms of traumatic brain injury

Symptoms of a mild TBI:

  • Low grade headache that won’t go away 
  • Getting lost or easily confused

  • Feeling tired all the time, lack of energy, or motivation

  • Loss of balance, feeling light-headed, or dizzy

  • Increased sensitivity to sounds, lights, or distractions

  • Blurred vision or eyes that tire easily

  • Loss of sense of taste or smell

  • Ringing in the ears

  • Mood changes like feeling sad, anxious, listless, or becoming easily irritated or angry for no reason

  • Having more trouble than usual remembering things, paying attention, organizing tasks, making decisions, or solving problems

Symptoms of a moderate or severe TBI:

  • A headache that gets worse or does not go away

  • Repeated vomiting or nausea

  • Convulsions or seizures

  • Inability to wake from sleep

  • Dilation of one or both pupils
  • Slurred speech
  • Weakness or numbness in the arms or legs
  • Loss of coordination
  • Increased confusion, restlessness, or agitation

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also recommends that older adults taking blood thinners should be seen immediately by a health care provider if they have a bump or blow to the head, even if they do not have the symptoms listed above.

If you think an older adult in your care has a TBI, take the individual to the doctor right away. Tell the doctor about any prescription drugs, including over-the-counter medicines, blood thinners, or aspirin that the older adult takes.

Some things you can do to help prevent falls in older adults  

  • Encourage exercise. Exercises that improve balance and coordination, like Tai Chi, are most helpful for reducing the chances of falling. Always check with a doctor first to ensure certain exercises are safe to do.
  • Make home surroundings safer by removing clutter in hallways or walkways, adding brighter lighting, and installing grab bars near the toilet and in the tub or shower.
  • Ask a health care provider to review all prescription and non-prescription medications to ensure you and your loved one understand their side effects - particularly if they could increase the chances of falling. As people age, the way medication works in the body may change, causing drowsiness which can lead to a fall.
  • Take your loved one in for a vision check. Make sure eye glasses are correct and that there are no conditions that limit vision, like glaucoma or cataracts. Poor vision can increase the chance of falling.

Home health care can help older adults maintain their independence, safely, in the comfort of home. Learn more today.

Home Care Services at BAYADA