How to Mitigate the Impacts of Traumatic Brain Injuries on an Aging Population

The Longevity Project is a collaboration between The Aspen Times and Post Independent. The longevity event will take place on November 10 at TACAW in Willits.

Each year, approximately 1.5 million people in the United States are diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI). For some, they may suffer a mild concussion. For others, the impacts of brain damage can be long term or even fatal.

For people in the age group of 65 or older, the impacts of brain damage can be the most severe compared to other age groups. According to the National Library of Medicineapproximately 80,000 people in this age group visit the emergency room each year due to brain damage.

You don’t have to be in the NFL or participate in extreme sports to endure the harmful effects a brain injury can have on the body. A single fall, for some, can change the rest of their lives in the blink of an eye.

Falls are the leading cause of death associated with traumatic brain injury in the United States for women over 75 and men over 85.

“Falls are one of the most common reasons seniors experience brain damage,” said Krista Fox, occupational therapist at Aspen Valley Hospital. “And, it usually falls from a standing height.”

The National Institute on Aging estimates that one in four people age 65 or older will experience a fall each year.

Although no one can predict a fall, there are many preventative measures one can take to better protect themselves.

According to Fox, there are three main areas to focus on when preventing accidents that can lead to a TBI:

1.) Organic

This population may experience muscle weakness, changes in their vision, changes in sensation in their feet, or alterations in balance. With this, it is recommended to consult a doctor if you notice any changes in your balance. Additionally, physical exercise is highly recommended for building muscle and improving flexibility in joints, tendons, and ligaments, according to the National Institute of Aging.

2.) Behavioral

Inactivity in this age group is a cause for concern when it comes to preventing falls. When a person is inactive, they may have slower reaction times, making falls more likely when active. By cultivating an active lifestyle, one can improve overall health and balance.

3.) Environment

Decluttering your home can significantly prevent falls. In addition to maintaining an organized space, it is strongly recommended that this age group make modifications to protect their home from falls. This can include having handrails on both sides of a staircase, getting rid of rugs, and keeping electrical cords off walkways. These small changes may seem like insignificant improvements, but they can help save lives.

For more advice on how to protect your home from falls, read the National Institute of Age’s advice guide.

What to do if you are a caregiver of a senior

Although a traumatic brain injury is a significant injury, those who may have TBI may not even know an injury has occurred. A person may experience brain fog as a symptom of a brain injury or may not remember that a fall has occurred, making it difficult to recognize the severity of their accident.

According to Fox, if you’re the caregiver of someone who may be significantly affected by TBI, it’s important to ask questions such as, “Have you fallen in the last year?” and “Are you having trouble with your balance?”

If you’re concerned that someone you know in this age group has fallen, she recommends taking them to a doctor.

“We always recommend that if you are concerned about falling as an older adult or have concerns for a family member that you see your doctor for physical therapy as it is clinically proven to help people” , she said.

Activities for seniors in Aspen

In addition to keeping the three areas in mind to prevent falls, see a doctor if you have balance and coordination issues, there are also groups for people 65 or older who can participate here in Aspen. to improve their general health.

Pitkin County Senior Services Center offers classes in balance, yoga, tai chi and more for seniors. Aspen Recreation Center offers a fitness program designed for seniors called Silver Sneakers.