Understanding Traumatic Brain Injuries & Their Possible Impact on Seniors

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The brain is the control center of our body, responsible for our thinking, moving, feeling, and everything that we do. Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) occur when the brain experiences a sudden jolt, blow, or a penetrating injury that disrupts its normal functioning.  

Most traumatic brain injuries in seniors are mild. However, in some cases, the brain can experience force or impact, which can cause damage to the tiny connections inside the brain called axons. Commonly known as a diffuse axonal injury, it is a severe form of TBI where complete recovery can be challenging.  

In this blog post, we will share detailed information about traumatic brain injuries to help caregivers take proactive steps toward prevention, early detection, and effective management.   

How Do Seniors Sustain Traumatic Brain Injuries?

According to reports, falls are the leading reason why older adults get traumatic brain injuries. Seniors often suffer from age-related issues like loss of balance, reduced mobility, and vision changes, making them more susceptible to falling. Besides, seniors may also take multiple medications to manage various health conditions. Some medications may make them feel dizzy or impair cognitive functions, putting them at greater risk of fall-related injuries.  

Read more: How to Prevent Falls in the Elderly 

In addition, seniors who still drive may get TBI from motor vehicle accidents. Due to slower reaction times, reduced visual acuity, and age-related decline in cognitive abilities, they may be at an increased risk of accident related TBI.  

Although less common, physical assaults may also lead to TBIs in seniors. It is crucial to promote safety and awareness to prevent such occurrences and protect the well-being of older adults.  

Symptoms of TBI in Seniors

In order to receive medical care at the right time, it is essential to understand the symptoms that may arise following a TBI. The following are some common physical, cognitive, and emotional symptoms of traumatic brain injuries to look out for:  

Physical Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injuries

Physical symptoms

  • Headaches  
  • Dizziness and balance issues  
  • Fatigue  
  • Sensory changes (blurred vision, heightened sensitivity to light or sound, or alterations in taste and smell)
  • Sleep disturbances (Trouble falling asleep, sleeping too much, or difficulty in waking up) 
Cognitive Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injuries

Cognitive symptoms

  • Memory problems  
  • Confusion and disorientation 
  • Slow or delayed thinking and processing  
  • Problem with attention and concentration  
Emotional Symptoms of Traumatic Brain Injuries

Emotional symptoms

  • Depression and anxiety 
  • Irritability and mood swings  
  • Social withdrawal  
  • Emotional sensitivity  
  • Lack of motivation  

The manifestation and severity of these symptoms may vary for every individual, depending on the intensity of their injury. If seniors exhibit any of these symptoms following a head injury, it is crucial to visit a medical clinic or emergency department of a hospital and consult a primary care physician for proper evaluation, diagnosis, and appropriate care.   

Diagnosing Traumatic Brain Injuries in Seniors

To diagnose TBI, primary care physicians thoroughly check an individual’s medical history, including how they got the injury, what are all the symptoms they have experienced, any pre-existing medical conditions, etc.    

Following a physical examination, p providers typically recommend a neurological test and imaging tests such as CT scans, MRI, etc. to assess the functioning of the brain and nervous system.  

The diagnostic process may also involve additional assessments, such as additional lab tests, cognitive tests, neuropsychological evaluations, etc., depending on the type of TBI.  

How Traumatic Brain Injuries Are Treated

How Traumatic Brain Injuries Are Treated

Treatment for TBIs requires a personalized approach. The following are some of the most common treatment options for TBI:  

1. Rest and observation

Mild TBIs, such as concussions, heal with time and adequate rest. Primary care physicians usually advise limiting physical and cognitive activities during the recovery period. Caregivers should also closely monitor seniors for worsening symptoms and report any concerns to the provider.  

2. Medication

Along with adequate rest, physicians may prescribe a few medications to manage symptoms such as pain, headaches, or sleep disturbances.   

3. Rehabilitation therapies

Rehabilitation plays a vital role in maximizing recovery and restoring functional abilities. The following are the most effective rehabilitation therapies for TBIs:   


  • Physical therapy: It focuses on restoring and improving physical function and mobility. Physical therapy may include balance and coordination exercises, strength and endurance training, gait training, etc.
  • Occupational therapy: It helps seniors regain independence and improve functional skills necessary for daily activities. Occupational therapy may involve ADL training, the use of adaptive equipment, etc.
  • Speech therapy: It helps improve communication skills, language efficiency, swallowing, cognitive skills, etc.
  • Cognitive rehabilitation: It is a great tool for improving cognitive abilities impacted by TBIs. Cognitive rehabilitation therapy may include memory training, attention and concentration exercises, problem-solving, executive function training, etc.  

4. Surgery

Although surgery is not required in most TBI cases, it may be the most viable option for specific complications or conditions that require immediate intervention. The following are some situations where surgery may be considered for TBI treatment: 

  • Hematomas: If TBIs cause a buildup of blood within the brain (hematoma), healthcare providers may opt for surgery to remove the clot or relieve the pressure on the brain.   

  • Skull fractures: In the case of skull fractures, surgeons may perform a craniotomy or craniectomy to repair the fracture, remove bone fragments, or alleviate pressure on the brain.  

  • Intracranial pressure management: Brain swelling or fluid accumulation may increase intracranial pressure (ICP) after an injury. In such cases, surgeons may perform decompressive craniectomy or insertion of an ICP monitoring device to reduce the pressure on the brain and improve blood flow.  

  • Penetrating injuries: When a traumatic brain injury (TBI) involves a sharp, penetrating object, surgical intervention may be required. The main goal of surgery in these cases is to address any damage the object has caused, including repairing blood vessels, removing any blood clots, etc. 

Rehabilitation therapies are often personalized to meet the unique needs and goals of individuals suffering from traumatic brain injuries. The duration and intensity of these therapies may vary depending on the severity of the injury, overall health, and the individual’s progress.   


Is It Possible to Prevent Traumatic Brain Injuries in Seniors

While it may not be entirely possible to prevent TBIs, a few measures can significantly reduce the risk. The following are some effective strategies that caregivers can consider 

1. Home safety measures

  • Clear pathways and floors by removing any tripping hazards like loose rugs, electrical cords, etc.  
  • To improve visibility, ensure that all areas of the home are well-lit, especially narrow hallways, stairs, and entrances.  
  • Install grab bars in bathrooms and handrails on staircases to provide stability and support. 
  • Use non-slip mats or rugs in bathrooms, showers, etc. to prevent falls.  
  • Loose rugs and carpets can be a serious tripping hazard that seniors need to be careful about. Secure these to the floor using double-sided tape or non-slip pads to prevent them from sliding.  

2. Other fall prevention strategies

  • Engage in regular physical activity, including strength and balance exercises to improve muscle strength, coordination, and stability. 
  • Do not miss routine eye examinations to maintain optimal vision. Wear prescribed corrective lenses to reduce the risk of falls due to poor vision.  
  • Wear properly fitted, supportive shoes with non-slip soles to improve stability.  
  • Consider using assistive devices such as canes or walkers for additional support and stability when required.  


3. Safe driving strategies

  • Try to get periodic driving assessments to evaluate driving skills, reaction time, and visual acuity.  
  • Minimize distractions, such as using mobile devices or eating while driving.  
  • Visit a medical clinic and get regular vision and hearing assessments to ensure that seniors meet the requirements for safe driving.   
  • Avoid driving right after taking medications that may cause dizziness.  
  • Stay up to date with traffic rules.

Read more: 7 Ways Seniors Can Drive Safely 


The physical symptoms of TBI are not exclusive, especially in the case of seniors. Most of the symptoms may look similar to their pre-existing, age-related health conditions, leading to underreporting or delayed reporting of the injury. It is more difficult to diagnose TBI in seniors with cognitive issues such as dementia, Parkinson’s, or Alzheimer’s. Differentiating between the symptoms of TBI and those associated with these conditions can be challenging, requiring careful evaluation and expertise.  


Therefore, in case of any injury sustained by the seniors, caregivers or family members should take prompt action and seek immediate medical attention. It will help in early detection and avoid any severe complications.  

For any queries or concerns about seniors’ health, contact EliteCare Health Center. EliteCare is one of the top medical clinics in Florida, offering a wide range of comprehensive senior care services.   


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