Apr 26, 2024

Get ahead with prevention: Concussion awareness is for everyone

Falls are one of the most common causes of concussion in older adults. [Shutterstock]

Aged care workers, family members, friends and everyone in between are being called on to recognise that concussion awareness is for everyone and that older adults are among those most susceptible to harm.

And with the sporting world the focal point for concussion treatment – and rightly so as the potential lifelong risks are severe – experts from Connectivity (Traumatic Brain Injury Australia) want the public to know just how high concussion prevalence is in the community. 

‘Sport is bringing concussion to the forefront and many concussions do occur within sport. But the thing about concussions is more of them happen in the course of daily life; falls, car accidents, family or domestic violence situations and workplace accidents,” Naomi Fuller, Connectivity Executive Officer, told HelloCare.

Ms Fuller also said it can be difficult to diagnose a concussion as it requires a clinical assessment from a health professional and is often dependent on the signs and symptoms someone presents. 

Signs and symptoms of concussion

  • Headache or migraine
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea or vomiting 
  • Difficulty thinking clearly or concentrating
  • Poor memory
  • Changes in vision like blurriness or double vision
  • Light or noise sensitivity 
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Emotional changes such as increased anxiety or  irritability 

Ms Fuller added that concussions in older adults are often underreported, too, as many fear acknowledging a fall occurred will lead to a loss of independence. However, she said it’s incredibly important to emphasise the importance of seeking medical care even if someone hasn’t hit their head.

“If they are not quite feeling right or you notice they are slightly different after a fall they should consider seeking care just to have an assessment and make sure they are okay,” she said.

“A force to your body that’s strong enough to make your brain move within your skull can cause a concussion. You don’t have to hit your head or be knocked out.”

This awareness is especially important if an older person already experiences symptoms of dementia or even dizziness from low blood pressure or side effects of their medication. 

“Monitoring, assessing and seeking care is important and having someone who knows the person well helps. They can know whether those symptoms were present before potentially having a fall and they can notice personal changes related to a potential concussion,” Ms Fuller added. 

She was also quick to address fears over the long-term effects of concussion. This is because most of us are used to seeing it on the news or hearing about another athlete impacted by a concussion. However, most people see their symptoms fade away with the right care. Many will also have no symptoms or not experience any until one week later.

Some people will have more severe and debilitating symptoms, however, and that’s where specialist help is required. Otherwise, Ms Fuller likened it to any other injury.

“If you fall over and sprain your wrist and you’re in a sling you can visibly see that. You visibly and physically need the time for that part of your body to heal and your brain’s no different. It just needs time and the correct steps to let that healing process happen and then you’re okay,” she said.

Prevention and education are key

Falls prevention is arguably the most important step in reducing the risk of concussion in older people. As people age there are issues with mobility, awareness and strength, and addressing those is essential at home or in residential care settings. 

“Trying to prevent things, especially in older adults, can be done by continuing to encourage exercise, core strength and balance, ensuring that surroundings are safe and you’re removing any trip hazards, even regularly reviewing medicines just to make sure people are on the right medicine that doesn’t make them feel faint, or just checking their eyesight regularly,” Ms Fuller said.

Education is important, too, no matter who you are. Ms Fuller strongly believes that concussion awareness is for everyone and aged care staff, friends and family should all be aware of the signs and symptoms of concussion. This will help you to know when it’s the right time to seek extra help from a medical professional. 

If you are interested in learning more about concussions, aged care workers can access a Concussion in Older Adults Short Course (this counts for CPD points) to learn more about prevention and management, while there is also a general Concussion Short Course with more information for everyone.

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