The Symptoms Of Head Trauma In Elderly After A Fall

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional

The symptoms of head trauma can range from mild to severe and include both physical and cognitive symptoms. Some symptoms may not show up for a few days up to a few weeks. So, you should see a doctor after any fall for additional screening.

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According to the CDC, more than 25 percent of people above the age of 65 will fall during the course of the year. Of those millions who fall, less than half will take the initiative and inform their doctors. The result is an increased risk of developing long-term health issues because of undetected brain trauma.

The same CDC report also highlights that falls are the leading cause of traumatic brain injury(TBI). Other leading causes of TBI include vehicle accidents and being struck by falling objects. Seniors are far more likely to experience a fall and should practice fall prevention techniques to reduce their risk.

A TBI may be classified in one of three possible categories:

  1. Mild
  2. Moderate
  3. Severe.

The major deciding factors for each category are whether the patient experienced unconsciousness and how long that unconsciousness lasted. The severity of specific symptoms will also help a doctor provide an accurate classification. The majority of TBIs will fall into the mild category. However, even a mild TBI can cause permanent damage if not properly cared for.

Elderly patients are at an increased risk of developing serious conditions like Alzheimer’s after experiencing multiple falls. A senior who experiences a severe TBI may develop dementia years after the accident, though the risk is highest for the year following the accident.

It’s important to properly detect and diagnose a TBI as soon as possible. If you or a senior you know have recently fallen, then visiting a doctor to test for brain trauma may be advisable. Understanding the symptoms of a TBI can help you determine if visiting a doctor is the right choice.

What Are The Symptoms Of Head Trauma After Fall In Elderly

Generally speaking, the symptoms of a TBI are similar in all three categories. The major difference is the severity of the symptoms. Symptoms like confusion or dizziness may only be a nuisance when mild, but they can a lasting impact when more severe. The symptoms of brain trauma can be labeled as physical or cognitive.

Physical Symptoms Of A TBI

  • Headaches
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of smell

Cognitive Symptoms Of A TBI

  • Confusion
  • Memory loss
  • Depression
  • Mood swings
  • Problems concentrating

All of these are classic symptoms of a brain injury following a fall. If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms after falling, then visiting a doctor is advisable. A close examination by a professional can help determine if there is any lasting damage.

Additionally, there are a few symptoms that are more common with moderate and severe brain injuries. Experiencing any of these symptoms after a fall is a warning sign of serious damage and should be reported to a doctor immediately. They may occur immediately after the fall up to several days later.

The additional symptoms include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Extended period of unconsciousness
  • Persistent headache
  • Persistent vomiting

When Should You Seek Medical Attention?

Many people assume that a fall doesn’t require medical attention unless there is clear evidence of an injury. This may be true for some younger people, but it is definitely not the case for senior citizens. Remember, the CDC stated that half of all falls are not reported by seniors. Many of those same people suffer from a TBI without ever receiving a diagnosis or treatment.

The best time to seek medical attention is anytime that you fall and hit your head. This is a safe rule that applies to all senior citizens. Even a seemingly harmless fall can cause bleeding on the brain after a fall elderly. In some cases, the only way to detect and treat the damage is with a medical inspection.

Seeking medical attention should become an immediate priority if you experience any of the symptoms above after a fall. Any indicator of potential brain trauma is a good enough reason to visit the doctor as soon as possible. Immediate treatment is the only way to reduce the risk of developing long term cognitive conditions like dementia.

Fall Prevention For Seniors

Statistically, a senior who falls once is twice as likely to fall again in the future. This is according to the same report by the CDC. The ideal strategy is to avoid falling altogether. Fall prevention techniques are simple guidelines that seniors can follow to reduce their likelihood of falling and experiencing brain trauma.

Here are some simple fall prevention guidelines.

1. Stay Active

Moving around might sound like it would increase your risk for following, but the physical benefits it provides far outweigh the dangers. Staying active is a great way to maintain your strength, balance, and flexibility. All of these tend to deteriorate as you age and make falling more likely.

Increasing physical activity can begin with simple actions like walking around the block or joining a water exercise class. As you advance, you should focus more on exercises that increase flexibility and balance. Exercises that involve fluid movements and simple poses are very beneficial.

2. Create A Safe Environment

Man falls happen because an object was in the path of travel. One of the smartest ways to prevent falls is to remove as many falling hazards as possible from your home. That includes boxes, loose clothing, rugs, damaged floorboards, and coffee tables. It also means placing objects like dishes and food items in easy-to-reach locations.

3. Get Help From Manufacturers

There are a lot of assistive items designed to help seniors stay on their feet. A great example of this is non-slip shoes designed for seniors. Other examples include grab bars by the showers, handrails on the stairways, and non-slip treads for smooth flooring. You may require professional help installing some of these items but it is worth the investment.

Avoid Brain Trauma By Staying On Your Feet

Practicing safe fall prevention techniques on a regular basis is a great way to stay on your feet. Unfortunately, accidents still happen. You or a senior you know may fall this year and suffer some form of TBI.

Symptoms can include headache, dizziness, confusion, and loss of consciousness. The safest option is to always contact a doctor after a fall that involved contact with the head.

Certified Senior Advisor (CSA)®
Assistive Technology Professional

Scott Grant has spent more than 20 years serving seniors and the elderly in the home medical equipment industry. He has worked as a manufacturer's rep for the top medical equipment companies and a custom wheelchair specialist at a durable medical equipment (DME) provider in WV. He is father to 4 beautiful daughters and has three terrific grandkids. When not promoting better living for older adults, he enjoys outdoor activities including hiking and kayaking and early morning runs.

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