Falls and concussion
A concussion is a brain injury
Concussion is a form of Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). Falls is the leading cause of brain injury in older people and the consequences can be serious and long term. If you or someone you care for has a fall, you need to be checked for a brain injury by your doctor.
You don’t have to be knocked out or even be hit on the head directly to have experienced a brain injury. If you have a low-level or same-level fall your doctor should consider the possibility of brain injury.
Older people who suffer a brain injury have a greater risk of cognitive decline, recovery takes longer, and consequences can be worse.
More than two-thirds of older adults recover completely from a mild brain injury. Older adults who are frail, have been diagnosed with dementia, cancer, or who have a history of antithrombotic therapy are most at risk of a poor recovery.
Recognise the signs of a brain injury and talk to your doctor
Older people, their caregivers and their whānau need to be aware of the signs of a brain injury.
We talk about the 2 Rs – recognise and refer.
Recognise the signs and symptoms of a brain injury
Brain injury symptoms are not always obvious and can be wide-ranging:
- Complaining of neck pain
- Severe or increasing headache
- Repeated vomiting
- Weakness or tingling/burning in arms or legs
- Ringing in the ears
- Seizure or convulsion
- Dizzyness or double vision
- Increased sensitivity to light or sound
- Increasing confusion
- Irritability or low mood
- Deteriorating conscious state
- Hard to sleep
- Hard to concentrate or have a conversation
- Unusual behaviour
Refer to a doctor for assessment
If you had a fall and suspect you may have a concussion talk to your doctor as soon as possible. They'll assess you to confirm if you have a brain injury and how severe the injury is.
If you have a brain injury and you don't get the right treatment, it may negatively impact your quality of life, lead to loss of physical activity and social isolation.
Reducing the risk of a fall and a brain injury
Maintain core strength and balance
Having core strength and balance keeps you active and steady on your feet. It helps to reduce the risk of a fall, avoid fractures, and possible brain injury. Regular exercise is one of the best ways for older people to build body strength and coordination to help maintain balance.
Clinical research has shown that when older people exercise, to strengthen their leg and abdominal muscles, their balance improves and their risk of a fall reduces by almost a third.
Community group or in-home strength and balance classes are an affordable way to build your strength and coordination, meet new people in your community, and have fun.
Make it safer in and around the home
Making a few adjustments in and around the home could make your home safer and reduce the likelihood of a fall. Our hame safety checklist includes advice about rugs, lighting, different rooms in your home, outside your home, and personal safety.