Is It Possible to Develop Dementia After a Head Injury?

Do Head Injuries Make Seniors More Vulnerable to Dementia?

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Falls remain a major cause of injuries in older adults, sometimes resulting in blows to the head that cause traumatic brain injury (TBI). A study published in JAMA Neurology reports that older adults who experience moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries have an increased risk of developing dementia. The study involved extensively examining a database containing the histories of more than 164,000 seniors throughout the state of California. A group of Swedish scientists who evaluated approximately 300,000 older adults over five decades found similar results and published their findings in PLOS Medicine. Here’s what to consider when it comes to the link between head injuries and dementia.

Head Trauma–Related Accidents

When an older adult experiences a blow to the head, the brain jostles within the skull. The impact causes fluid accumulation and tissue swelling along with breakage of delicate blood vessels, and bleeding may occur at multiple brain locations. Nerve cells are damaged and lose the blood flow needed to function. The lack of nutrition results in further cell damage and cell death.

Some seniors experience skull fractures, increasing tissue damage. In mild to moderate trauma, the damage commonly heals without extensive medical intervention. However, scientists discovered via autopsies and imaging studies that following the trauma, an accumulation of apolipoproteins, beta-amyloid plaques, and tau proteins begins, which leads to dementia. The initial damage that occurs during head injuries may cause chronic subdural hematoma or chronic traumatic encephalopathy. If blood vessels remain blocked or damaged, the senior develops vascular dementia.

Seniors aged 60 years and older have the greatest risk of developing dementia secondary to a traumatic brain injury. Research indicates that older adults with TBIs have up to an 80 percent risk of developing dementia compared to those who haven’t had a TBI. Additionally, scientists have found that older adults develop dementia symptoms within the first year of their injuries. However, the symptoms may not appear until one, two, or three decades later.

Seniors with head injuries often need assistance with everyday activities while they recover. If your senior loved one has been diagnosed with a serious condition and needs help with tasks like meal prep, transportation, bathing, and grooming, reach out to Home Care Assistance, a leading provider of senior care New Hampshire families can trust. We also offer comprehensive care for seniors with dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.

Post-TBI Symptoms

After any type of TBI, seniors may experience prolonged or chronic cognitive decline. The damage may also manifest in behavioral or emotional symptoms. Some symptoms appear within the first month after the accident, while others slowly develop over time. Post-TBI symptoms may include:

• Aggression or hostility 
• Apathy 
• Altered or neglected personal hygiene 
• Behavior inappropriate to situations 
• Combativeness 
• Depression 
• Generalized fatigue 
• Headaches 
• Impulsiveness 
• Inability to focus, solve problems, or engage in other types of cognitive activity 
• Insomnia 
• Manic episodes 
• Memory loss 
• Obsessive-compulsive behaviors 
• Psychotic episodes that include delusional thinking, hallucinations, or paranoia

Seniors with dementia, no matter what the cause, can optimize their quality of life with the help of a highly trained, experienced professional caregiver. If your senior loved one needs professional dementia care, New Hampshire caregivers are available around the clock to provide the high-quality care he or she needs. Using the revolutionary Cognitive Therapeutics Method, dementia caregivers can help your loved one stay mentally engaged and delay the progression of the disease.

Treatment

Seniors who experience traumatic brain injury secondary to a blow to the head typically undergo imaging studies to determine the extent of the damage. Following the trauma, they often spend a short time in the hospital for monitoring and emergency interventions. For some, therapy is helpful. In general, physicians commonly monitor the older adult’s condition over time to track cognitive and neurological changes.

If your loved one has experienced a head injury or is living with dementia, having a trained professional caregiver close by can provide you and your family with much-needed peace of mind. Not every senior has the same care needs, which means they don’t all need the same type of home care service. New Hampshire families can rely on Home Care Assistance to provide individualized care plans to meet your elderly loved one’s unique care needs. Our holistic Balanced Care Method was designed to help seniors focus on healthy lifestyle habits such as eating nutritious foods, exercising regularly, and maintaining strong social ties, and our Cognitive Therapeutics Method offers mentally stimulating activities that can stave off cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia. Call Home Care Assistance today at (603) 471-3004 to learn about our high-quality in-home dementia care services.

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