Elderly falls result in brain injury

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A new study finds the number of elderly people suffering a traumatic brain injury from a fall is increasing.

Researchers at Cleveland Clinics Injury and Osteoporosis Research Center followed a group of Finnish people for more 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.

98-year-old local resident Virginia George is rehabbing at The Pines of Sarasota from a fall. "I was in bed, got up at 2:30 in the morning, grabbed hold of my walker and fell over."

She is not alone. The emergency room at Doctors Hospital of Sarasota admits about 4000 elderly patients per year suffering head injuries resulting from a fall.

"At least twenty percent of our patients are elderly patients that come in as a result of a fall," says Marilee Arnold R.N., Director of Emergency Services, Doctors Hospital of Sarasota.

Registered Nurse Brandy Robbins says a common reason for falls include rugs and objects left on the floor. "If they're feeling light headed to wait to either sit on the end of their sofa and wait until they've adjusted and they're not feeling light headed."

George concurred that moving too quickly before she was ready may be the reason for her fall. "Well I just grabbed the handle of the walker, so it went over and I went with it."

George is on her way to a full recovery, but for some injuries may be more serious. "It can range from a simple concussion to a large cut across their head or their face to pretty significant head injuries."

So what can you do to protect yourself and your elderly loved ones from taking a tumble? "If you have stairs, make sure that you have a railing or a support to hold onto. So you’re not trying to navigate with your balance, having grab bars in your bathroom is help full."

Robbins said there are many red flags that may upset your equilibrium including the summer heat. "Weakness, dehydration or something medical going on."

Blood thinners and diabetes medication and others may also contribute to falls and more serious injury.

While the numbers are high, there is hope and you can help protect yourself by being aware of your surroundings improving your balance and strength with exercise.

For information on the study click here.

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