Signs of a Concussion in Seniors

senior with headache

Concussions can be hard to pinpoint in seniors. Maybe you’ve become used to your elderly loved one experiencing difficulty thinking clearly due to dementia or Alzheimer’s, so why should you consider a potential concussion? And trouble with balance can be caused by everything from stroke to vertigo to low blood pressure, so perhaps it’s not alarming to you now. Since concussions share many symptoms with other common ailments and illnesses seniors often experience, they can be difficult to diagnose—but it’s essential that you do, since concussions can lead to a number of complications that you don’t want your elderly loved one to have to contend with. Read on to learn everything you need to know about concussions in seniors—what causes them, signs and symptoms, potential complications, and what you can do to help prevent them.

The Most Common Cause of Concussions in Seniors

Did you know that one in four seniors experience a fall every year? This staggering statistic is a big cause for concern, because according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), falls are the most common cause of traumatic brain injuries. And since less than half of seniors tell their doctors when they experience a fall, a concussion isn’t always your first consideration when your elderly loved one starts showing symptoms, especially if their fall didn’t result in any broken bones. That’s why it’s essential to monitor risk factors for falls—because according to the CDC, falling once can double their chances of falling again. 

Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms of concussions can be cognitive, physical, emotional, or relevant to sleep patterns. The difficulty in pinpointing concussions in seniors is often that many symptoms are shared with other ailments and conditions, so the best thing to do when evaluating symptoms is to consider whether your elderly loved one has recently suffered a fall. 

Common cognitive symptoms of a concussion include difficulty concentrating, thinking clearly, and remembering new information. Physical symptoms include nausea and/or vomiting, dizziness, headache, blurred vision, sensitivity to light and/or noise, balance issues, and fatigue. Emotional symptoms can include irritability, sadness, moodiness, and anxiety. And finally, a senior with a concussion might sleep more or less than usual or have a difficult time falling asleep. 

Potential Complications

It’s important to diagnose a concussion early, since unchecked and untreated concussions can lead to: 

  • Post-traumatic vertigo
  • Second impact syndrome 
  • Post-concussion syndrome
  • Cumulative brain injury effects 
  • Post-traumatic headaches

Some of these complications will fade over time, lasting days, weeks, or months, depending on the individual and the severity of the concussion. But others, such as post-concussion syndrome, may have lasting effects, including headaches, dizziness, and cognitive dysfunction.

Preventing Concussions in Seniors

Fortunately, there are tons of things you can do to help your elderly loved one avoid a fall that can result in a concussion, like:

  • Making the home safe. Rugs, pets, shoes, and other items on the floor can cause seniors to trip and fall. Keeping floors clean and clear can help.
  • Talking to their doctors. Seniors account for 34% of prescription medication use in the United States, and it’s no secret that prescription medications can lead to a slew of side effects, dizziness large among them. And since dizziness can lead to falls, it’s important to talk about these risk factors with your elderly loved one’s physicians.
  • Encouraging them to stay active. Regular exercise is essential for maintaining muscle strength, slowing down the effects of osteoporosis, and keeping joints, ligaments, and tendons flexible and working properly. 
  • Getting them the right gear. Non-slip shoes with low heels and rubber soles can help prevent your elderly loved one from slipping, and assistive devices, like canes and walkers, can help them stay more stable on their feet.

DispatchHealth Can Help

Don’t want to deal with a trip to the urgent care or emergency room? We don’t blame you. Seniors don’t always fare well when visiting the ER, especially those who are cognitively or mobility impaired, and especially if they’re admitted to the ED for a long period of time—but DispatchHealth has your back. We provide convenient, in-home care for seniors who have recently suffered a fall. Treating breaks, sprains, bruises, and head injuries in seniors, we can help you determine if your elderly loved one has a concussion that needs to be attended to. We accept most major forms of medical insurance, including Medicare and Medicaid, and offer an affordable flat rate for uninsured patients. We’ll also be sure to loop your elderly loved one’s care team in by providing a detailed medical report to ensure continuity of care. Requesting care is easy—simply give us a call, download our app, or request care online to receive the medical attention needed at your elderly loved one’s doorstep within just a few hours!

Sources

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

Sources referenced in this article: 

  1. https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/falls/adultfalls.html
  2. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/balance-problems-and-disorders
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/steadi/pdf/STEADI-FactSheet-RiskFactors-508.pdf 
  4. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/concussion/symptoms-causes/syc-20355594
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3625036/
  6. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/prevent-falls-and-fractures
  7. https://www.cdc.gov/traumaticbraininjury/symptoms.html
  8. https://www.webmd.com/brain/concussion-traumatic-brain-injury-symptoms-causes-treatments#1
  9. https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/501879

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