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Ohio Department of Aging Aging Connection - March 2010

Aging Connection

CONNECT TO | Health & Wellness
March 2010

The Silent Epidemic of Serious Brain Injuries
Community Support Aids Access to Information and Resources

Each year more than 11,000 Ohioans are hospitalized with a traumatic brain injury and an estimated 196,000 live with the residual effects of brain injury, according to the Brain Injury Association of Ohio.

Falls are the leading cause of brain injuries in seniors, but they also can be caused by infections, bleeding or lack of oxygen to the brain. People 75 and older have the highest rates of hospitalizations and death due to brain injuries. Young people are more likely to suffer brain injuries from moving vehicle accidents, falls, gunshot wounds or assaults and they are more likely to survive this trauma than their older cohorts. Nonetheless, individuals of any age who survive a brain injury face dramatically changed lives.

Traumatic brain injury has been called a "silent epidemic," because the signs and symptoms can be subtle and may not appear until days or weeks following the injury. The symptoms can even be missed because people may look fine, even though they act or feel differently.

Serious brain injuries can cause unconsciousness that lasts only a few minutes or that results in coma, which may last for days, weeks or months. Individuals with brain injuries and their families often face a long period of rehabilitation. Brain injuries can cause a wide range of functional changes that affect thinking, sensation, language or emotions. They also can cause epilepsy and increase the risk for conditions such as Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's disease that become more prevalent with age.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that at least 5.3 million Americans, approximately two percent of the U.S. population, currently have a long-term or lifelong need for help to perform activities of daily living as a result of a traumatic brain injury. According to one study, about 40 percent of those hospitalized with a traumatic brain injury had at least one unmet need for services one year after their injury.

People with a brain injury often have cognitive and communication problems that significantly impair their ability to live independently. A person could have trouble with concentrating when there are distractions, processing new information or remembering recent events. The person may have trouble starting tasks and setting goals to complete them. He also may have difficulty solving problems and may react impulsively to situations and may have no awareness of just how inappropriately he is acting.

The Brain Injury Association of Ohio has developed eight Community Support Networks (1-866-644-6242) serving multiple counties and staffed with part-time coordinators who link individuals with brain injury and their families with existing services. Coordinators encourage networking and collaboration between area service providers and advocates to enhance, expand and better coordinate services for individuals with brain injury.

The Brain Injury Association of Ohio also works to raise awareness of brain injury and methods to prevent it, serves as a resource for persons with brain injury and advocates for community-based system of service coordination that promotes consumer choice and self-determination.

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