“Rule out age-related cognitive decline….”

That’s what it said in one of our client’s medical records.

She’d been in a bad car wreck.  But even a board-certified doctor was unable to tell whether her symptoms were from the head injury or just age.

Older people who suffer head injuries are statistically more likely to have other health issues too.  Some symptoms of concussion—like dizziness, balance issues, memory problems, and anxiety—can be mistaken as being part of the injured person’s pre-injury “normal” when they’re actually caused by the head injury.

Depression can occur after TBI in patients of all ages.  It’s associated with poor outcomes and decreased functioning.  For a lot of older people, a MTBI feels like the beginning of the end.

Exacerbating this sense of loss is embarrassment/frustration of people thinking that deficits associated with the MTBI are really just the product of age.  It must be maddening to suffer from post-concussive syndrome and have other people comment: “Oh, you’re just having a ‘senior moment.’”

People are sensitive about their age.  And few things are worse than being misunderstood.

It is possible for an elderly patient to recover function after a brain injury, but they do so at a slower pace than younger people.  Follow up with a doctor familiar with concussion is recommended if problems continue; concussion clinics are also a good source of treatment.  Therapies can address issues with balance, dizziness, vision changes, headaches and new/worsened cognitive issues.

Concussions are a well-established risk factor for dementia and Parkinson’s disease.  Few studies have specifically assessed the risk in older people who have suffered MTBIs.  But with reduced neuroplasticity, it’s easy to imagine that a concussion at 70 years old is going to have a bigger impact than a concussion at 20 years old.