TBI Cases High in Older Population Too; Adjustment to “New Normal” Requires New Strategies

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Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) affect not only professional athletes, but also many older adults as a result of a fall or auto accident, says a survey of aging experts issued today. Advocacy on the client’s behalf is identified as the most needed strategy in helping families overcome the huge adjustments in daily life.

Aging Life Care Professionals surveyed about top causes of TBI

Auto accidents and falls are cited as the top causes of TBI among aging adults

Those over age 65 when TBI occurs are often automatically branded with a diagnosis of dementia and the TBI diagnosis seems to fall off the client's medical record and they cease to receive care appropriate for TBI.

Ongoing news of the ravages of traumatic brain injury (TBI) among former NFL players prompted the Aging Life Care Association™ (ALCA) to conduct a survey that takes a closer look at cases of TBI being managed by their members. The survey of aging experts released today illustrates the prevalence and causes of TBI among the aging population, and identifies the challenges associated with their care.

During the week before the Super Bowl (Feb 3-6, 2016), 63% of surveyed Aging Life Care Professionals™ said their caseloads included individuals with TBI. Although Aging Life Care™ experts typically care for aging adults, the survey revealed that at least one provides services for a nine-year-old child. The majority of cases (96%) included adults in the 41-80 age range. The overwhelming cause of these injuries was falls (52%) and auto accidents (51%). Other causes included other accidental blunt trauma (28%), sports-related injury (8%), and violence (7%).

The strategies for treatment most in demand from clients, according to the 266 participating in the survey included:

  •     Advocacy
  •     stress relief for family
  •     therapy/support

Ranked closely behind:

  •     assistance with placement (i.e. nursing home, assisted living, memory care)
  •     communications
  •     stress relief for families
  •     financial planning
  •     managing the relationship role changes

Aging Life Care Professionals also collaborate with other professionals in caring for TBI clients, primarily physicians and physical, occupational, or speech therapists. Also consulted were neuropsychologists, attorneys, caregiver agencies, and mental health providers.

The biggest challenge for families whose loved one has suffered a TBI was overwhelmingly identified as issues relating to behavior changes and accepting the “new person,” a “new personality, a “new normal.” One respondent identified it as, “The loss of role of the person who used to be more capable…and the strain of the ongoing demise of the person.” This type of loss has been called an “ambiguous loss” (a term coined by family therapist and author Pauline Boss). It means “having the person's physical presence but psychological absence. The person is there, but emotionally or cognitively missing.”

“Aging Life Care Professionals know the local resources and specialists that can help TBI patients find a ‘new normal’,” says Dianne McGraw,MSW, LCSW, CMC President of Aging Life Care Association. “From coordinating services to offering caregiving coaching, we give families the tools they need to live an optimal life.”

ABOUT the Aging Life Care Association™ (ALCA)
ALCA (formerly known as the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers) was formed in 1985 to advance dignified care for older adults and their families in the United States. Aging Life Care Professionals™ have extensive training and experience working with older adults, people with disabilities, and families who need assistance with caregiving issues. They assist families in the search for a suitable nursing home placement or extended care if the need occurs. The practice of Aging Life Care™ and the role of care providers have captured a national spotlight, as generations of Baby Boomers age in the United States and abroad. For more information or to access a nationwide directory of Aging Life Care Professionals, please visit aginglifecare.org.

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Callie Daters

Kaaren Boothroyd
since: 08/2012
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Aging Life Care Association
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