Traumatic brain injury represents a serious risk to the elderly in West Virginia and all over the world. Effects often include changes in behavior, cognitive difficulties and even death in extreme cases. The National Institutes of Health describes the severity of brain injury in the elderly and how this issue may go on to be a global epidemic in come years.

In the U.S. alone up to 155,000 seniors suffered from TBI in 2011, and of those 12,000 died as a result of their injuries. In many case the consequences for elderly patients are far less favorable than those of a younger age. Many seniors require placement in long-term care or rehabilitation facilities as a result of brain trauma, which can incur a steep cost. As for the global effects of TBI, the World Health Organization states that by the year 2020 TBI has the potential to be a significant cause of death and disability.

Substantial trauma to the brain may also result in Alzheimer’s or dementia-like symptoms. While some studies have shown conflicting results, there are links between these types of injuries and the occurrence of memory or other cognitive issues, especially in those patients carrying a specific gene (apolipoprotein E), which some claim predicts the onset of Alzheimer’s later in life.

Falls are the most common cause of TBI in seniors. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that seniors and their families attempt to reduce the risk of falls by ensure their living spaces are free from clutter and outfitted with the proper features (such as grip bars next to toilets and tubs). Seniors are also encouraged to speak with their doctors about any health issues that may contribute to falls, and have their eyes checked regularly.

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