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Neurological Testing for Seniors After a Fall

senior in hospital room

Falls are the leading cause of ER-related injuries for seniors. In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), every 11 seconds, a senior is treated in the ER for a fall; every 19 minutes, a senior dies from a fall. These statistics are proof of a scary reality, but what many don’t realize is that these falls are often linked to a larger health issue, doing much more damage than bone breaks. Seniors who have fallen are not only at risk of sustaining trauma to the head, seemingly invisible wounds that can evolve into a number of life-threatening injuries, but these falls can also be a sign of an underlying neurological illness, which can quickly progress—leading to confusion and future injuries. That being said, elderly dependents and patients who have fallen should undergo a thorough medical evaluation that includes neurological testing. Having a full neurological workup completed for seniors after a fall is not only important in determining and treating the underlying cause of the fall but also in measuring how substantial the impact of the fall was. 

Causes of Falls in Seniors

As we age, so do our bodies. And while there is little that we can do to prevent this decline in physical health, becoming aware of the fallibilities that can result from these weaknesses (poor bone density, for example) is one of the best ways to prevent serious injuries. As previously stated, falls are some of the most common geriatric injuries faced by seniors. While falls are typically caused by normal changes in aging—like poor eyesight and hearing— they can also be caused by medications that may affect balance and cause dehydration. Environmental conditions at home can also increase the risk of falls and injuries sustained from them. 

Recurrent falls in seniors, however, are typically caused by neurological illnesses. Invisible to the naked eye, these diseases are slow to progress and can often go undiagnosed for quite some time until the patient shows mental deterioration or seriously injures themselves. Here are some neurological causes of falls in seniors that can be revealed with testing post injury: 

Stroke

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is slowed or suddenly interrupted; most are caused when there’s an abrupt blockage of arteries leading to the brain. Other strokes, however, can be caused by ruptured blood vessels that bleed into brain tissue. Nevertheless, the effects of a stroke vary depending on where the damage occurs in the brain, leading to loss of sensation or difficulty speaking, seeing, or walking—all of which can cause falls or lead to future falls. Neurological testing can help determine which part of the brain was damaged during the stroke, helping to pinpoint which functions and controls were hindered. 

Alzheimer’s & Dementia

Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease that can lead to mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a loss of energy and spontaneity, an inability to comprehend locations, times, and dates, and eventual memory loss. Dementia, too, can affect memory as well as cognitive and social abilities. The effects of either condition are enough to interfere with daily life, causing extreme environmental confusion that can lead to a variety of injuries—most commonly, falls. 

The Importance of Neurological Testing After a Fall

Neurological illnesses are a contributing risk factor for elderly falls because of the damage that they can inflict on an individual’s environmental awareness and balance. What’s more, seniors who sustain injuries after a fall due to neurological illness are more likely to fall again, and often, due to worsened mental and functional situations. Dementia, for example, is frequently found in elderly patients with recurrent falls. Being proactive in ensuring a senior receives the right kind of medical assessment after a fall is one of the ways to prevent future injury and understand the cause. 

With neurological testing, like CT and MRI scans, neurologists can analyze the brain after a fall and rule out issues like tumors, stroke, burst blood vessels, brain bleeding, etc. that may be mistaken as early signs of dementia. On the other hand, these scans can also reveal loss of brain mass—a sign that is typically associated with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Evaluating neurological risk factors in geriatric patients after a fall—especially if they are recurrent—is essential in establishing the cause of the injury as well as offering appropriate prevention strategies.

How a Partnership With DispatchHealth Can Help

The stress of navigating the current healthcare situation in your community, especially for those seniors who have an underlying neurological illness, is undoubtedly weighing heavily on your shoulders as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. That’s where a partnership with DispatchHealth can help. We serve seniors with an array of complicated medical issues in the comfort of their homes or place of need, including those with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia as well as people who have had a stroke. Prepared to provide acute in-house geriatric care for your community, DispatchHealth can help you acknowledge residential needs without a disruptive medical experience by offering an alternative to traditional urgent care services for those who are easily confused or have mobility issues. What’s more, we always prioritize continuity of care and are now able to test for COVID-19 as well as treat and support COVID-19 patients, streamlining acute healthcare services for your elderly residents.

Requesting care is as easy as contacting us via phone, mobile app, or through our website. Learn how a partnership with DispatchHealth can help you better accommodate your elderly residents by contacting us today.

Sources

DispatchHealth relies only on authoritative sources, including medical associations, research institutions, and peer-reviewed medical studies. 

Sources referenced in this article: 

  1. http://www.stacommunications.com/customcomm/Back-issue_pages/AD_Review/adPDFs/april2004e/04.pdf
  2. https://www.nextavenue.org/after-aging-person-falls/
  3. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2000/0401/p2159.html
  4. https://www.healthinaging.org/a-z-topic/falls-prevention/tests
  5. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/Patient-Caregiver-Education/Fact-Sheets/Neurological-Diagnostic-Tests-and-Procedures-Fact
  6. https://www.ncoa.org/news/resources-for-reporters/get-the-facts/falls-prevention-facts/#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20U.S.%20Centers,adult%20dies%20from%20a%20fall.
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3988382/
  8. https://www.alz.org/alzheimers-dementia/what-is-dementia/related_conditions/traumatic-brain-injury
  9. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/geriatric_medicine_gerontology/_downloads/readings/section6.pdf 

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