More Elderly Falls, More Brain Injuries

Traumatic brain injuries on rise as falls increase
elderly man in bed with broken arm

A growing number of elderly people are falling and suffering traumatic brain injuries as a result, a new study says.

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Alarming rise in number of traumatic brain injuries

Researchers at the Injury and Osteoporosis Research Center followed a group of Finnish people over 40 years. They found the number of older Finnish adults with a fall-induced traumatic brain injury increased from 60 women in 1970 to 1,205 women in 2011.

They also found that the number of men who suffered a traumatic brain injury from a fall rose from 25 in 1970 to 612 in 2011.

Barbara Messinger-Rapport, MD, did not take part in the study but is a geriatrician at Cleveland Clinic. She says the most common reason an older person would get a traumatic brain injury is a fall.

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“Thirty percent of older adults living in the community fall every year,” says Dr. Messinger-Rapport. “In long-term care, that number is more like 50 percent.”

Reduce the risk of falling

Researchers aren’t sure why so many older people are falling and that more studies are needed to pinpoint the reason.

Dr. Messinger-Rapport says that older people, while more prone to falling, can take preventive measures.

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“Older adults are likely to fall because of abnormal gait and poor conditioning,” she says. “These can be managed with regular physical exercise, balance, endurance and strengthening.”

4 tips for fall prevention

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has some more tips to help older adults and their families reduce the chances of a potentially dangerous fall:

  1. Increase strength and balance with exercise – not enough exercise can mean weaker legs which increases your risk of falling. Try tai chi to boost strength and balance, too.
  2. Watch those medications – many medications can cause dizziness or drowsiness. Check with your doctor or pharmacist that side effects from your meds aren’t putting you at greater risks for falls.
  3. Keep a sharp eye out – make sure your vision is checked and all prescriptions are up to date. Seeing clearly is critical in preventing falls.
  4. Get rid of home hazards – half of all falls happen at home. Potential fall hazards need to be removed or changed like objects that are easy to trip over, clutter and poor lighting.

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