How to Decrease Your Risk of Falling Following a Brain Injury

Along with ringing in the New Year, January is sure to bring plenty of snow and ice! The onset of slippery conditions can cause an increase in incidences of falls. Though the majority of falls only result in mild injuries such as muscle soreness or bruising, approximately 10% of falls result in a trip to the emergency department. Some falls may be unavoidable, but being informed of the risks and actively making changes can reduce the risk of falling. With 30-65% of people with brain injuries reporting balance deficits at some point during recover, it is especially important for survivors to be aware of the facts that make them more susceptible to falling. Factors to Consider: Are you over 65 years old? Approximately 1 out of 4 people over the age of 65 experience a fall every year, with falls being the leading cause of injuries in this population. Do you take multiple medications? Individual medications or interactions between multiple medications may cause an increase in risk of falling. Researchers have found that certain classes of medications including sedatives and antidepressants may contribute to increased falls risk. If you notice an increase in falls with the start of a new medication, be sure to contact your physician. Have you fallen more than once in the last year? Previous falls are an indicator of an increased likelihood for subsequent falls. If you have previously fallen it is very important to take preventative measures to avoid reoccurring falls. Do you have vision deficits? Vision is an important component of balance, and having vision deficits significantly increase the risk of falls. Blurred vision, double vision, and other visual impairments are common after a brain injury; therefore, it is important to follow up with your optometrist or ophthalmologist if you suspect any changes in your vision. They may make changes to your eye glasses or refer you to an occupational therapist for vision therapy. Do you have impaired sensation in your legs? It is common to experience decreased sensation or proprioception, the perception of movement and positioning of our body, following a brain injury or due to other chronic conditions such as diabetes and peripheral neuropathy. This can cause individuals to trip on objects or lose their balance. Are you depressed? Studies have shown a correlation in increased falls with depression likely due to cognitive, sensory, and motor changes that may occur with brain injuries. Consider talking to your physician, social worker, or counselor if you believe you are experiencing depression. Do you experience dizziness? Dizziness can be a symptom of many conditions including damage to the vestibular system, changes in vision, medication symptoms, or other medical conditions. If you are experiencing dizziness it is advised to consult with your physician. They may refer you to an Ear Nose and Throat Specialist, ophthalmologist or to a vestibular physical therapist depending on the cause. Are you mostly inactive? A decrease in activity can lead to poor cardiovascular endurance and flexibility, as well as weakened muscles, which can increase your risk for falls. Ask your physician if you are able to participate in a regular exercise program, and consider consulting a physical therapist or another expert for a custom exercise program to meet your needs and goals. Do you experience incontinence?Incontinence is associated with an increase in falls due to impulsive and unsafe behavior occurring when a sudden urge to urinate occurs. Depending on the type of incontinence and the severity, different techniques such as utilizing caregiver assistance, bed pans, pads, or Kegels may be appropriate. A pelvic floor specialist can aid with decreasing episodes of incontinence. If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be at an increased risk for falling. Many brain injury survivors may have answered yes to many of the above questions; because of this, individuals who have experienced a brain injury have a significant increased risk of falling. Although some risk factors such as age are out of our control, many others may be modified to reduce your risk. If you believe you or a loved one is at an increased risk for falling, there are some simple modifications that can be made to decrease the risk:
  • Remove tripping hazards such as rugs or uneven thresholds in your home
  • If you use an assistive device, make sure you are using it correctly
  • Wear supportive shoes with a rubber sole to prevent shuffling feet and slipping.
  • Use night lights in order to increase visibility at night. Alert systems can be used for individuals requiring more assistance.
  • Shovel snow and apply salt to reduce the risk of slippery sidewalks
These tips can reduce your likelihood of falling and incurring an injury. If you have notice any recent changes or have questions regarding your balance, please contact your physician. References
  • Kallin, Kristina, et al. "Predisposing and precipitating factors for falls among older people in residential care." Public health 116.5 (2002): 263-271.
  • Lord, Stephen R., Hylton B. Menz, and Catherine Sherrington. "Home environment risk factors for falls in older people and the efficacy of home modifications." Age and ageing 35.suppl_2 (2006): ii55-ii59.
  • Peterson, Michelle, and Brian D. Greenwald. "Balance problems after traumatic brain injury." Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation 96.2 (2015): 379-380.
  • Thurman, David J., Judy A. Stevens, and Jaya K. Rao. "Practice parameter: assessing patients in a neurology practice for risk of falls (an evidence-based review): report of the Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology." Neurology 70.6 (2008): 473-479.
  • Woolcott, John C., et al. "Meta-analysis of the impact of 9 medication classes on falls in elderly persons." Archives of internal medicine 169.21 (2009): 1952-1960.
Emily Wolf, PT, DPT Physical Therapist, The Lighthouse Neurological Rehabilitation Center

Emily graduated from Arcadia University with a Doctorate of Physical Therapy. Her academic focus was primarily on treatment of adolescents and adults post-concussion. She has been practicing as a physical therapist at The Lighthouse Neurological Rehabilitation Center in Kingsley, Michigan since 2017.

Rockin’ for Rehab 2018

While Rockin’ for Rehab has always been a hugely successful event benefiting our Lansing chapter, we’re working hard to re-imagine the evening of food, drink, music, and fun so that it benefits not just Lansing, but our Flint and Tri-Cities (Saginaw/Bay City/Midland) support groups as well!

More good news: We’re also exploring how to provide transportation for survivors who wish to attend Rockin’ for Rehab.

Details will be shared as soon as possible, but for save-the-date purposes, this year’s Rockin’ for Rehab will be held Friday, December 7, at the Michigan State University Club from 6:30 pm – 11:30 pm. Perennial favorite Dr. Fab and his Off the Couch Band will perform your favorite hits from the 1950’s – 60’s. Admission is $65 per person.

For attendees desiring hotel accommodations, a block of rooms has been set aside at the adjacent Candlewood Suites. When making reservations, be sure to use the block name “Rockin’ for Rehab-BIAMI” and enter block code “RFR” to reserve a room. Candlewood Suites reservations can be reached at (517) 351-8181.

Quality of Life Conference 2018

BIAMI is excited to announce we’re expanding this year’s Quality of Life Conference to include four new, informative, and very timely sessions. Here’s a sneak preview:

  • Dealing with Phone, Mail, and E-scams, presented by the Michigan Attorney General’s office
  • Sexuality and Relationships after a Traumatic Brain Injury, presented by
    Deborah Adams from Eisenhower Center
  • Healthy Eating for a Healthy Brain, with Dr. Sarah Wice and Emily White from Origami Brain Injury Rehabilitation
  • Creating Your Recovery Based on Your Unique Talents, presented by Courtney Wang from Galaxy Brain and Therapy Center and survivor Barbaranne Branca.

As always, one of our major Conference objectives is to ensure all attendees have access to transportation services should they need it, regardless of location. We’ll pass along further transportation information as we line up sponsors.

The Quality of Life Conference will be held November 5 at the Crown Plaza in Lansing from 9 AM to 3:00 PM. Registration is open to survivors, caregivers, and professionals, so make plans to join us for a positive and rewarding experience!

Now Showing: “Unmasking Brain Injury 2.0”

Behind every mask created for Unmasking Brain Injury is a survivor with a story to tell. Now in the second year of this important and successful program – we call it Unmasking Brain Injury 2.0 — BIAMI has endeavored to give more survivors a chance to be seen and their stories heard.

For this year’s project, BIAMI partnered with Sean Bowman from Captured Screens Productions to produce videos featuring twelve survivors and their masks. When on display, the masks will have QR codes that can be electronically scanned to pull up a video of the mask’s creator. Unmasking Brain Injury 2.0 made its official debut at the 2018 Fall Conference in mid-September.

For those unfamiliar with scanning QR codes or need help downloading a QR code reader app, an instructional video is available on our YouTube channel.

Soon after our 2018 Fall Conference, we began sharing these Unmasking Brain Injury 2.0 videos via social media every Wednesday and Friday. As each video is shared, it will also be made available on BIAMI’s YouTube Channel. All twelve videos will be available on our channel by October 26 and we encourage you to view as many as possible.

A list of the featured videos, as well as the QR code reader instructional video and the Unmasking Brain Injury 2.0 videos as they become available, can be found at:
https://www.youtube.com/user/BrainInjuryAssocMI/videos.

If you have an Unmasking Brain Injury mask and would like to participate in Unmasking Brain Injury 2.0, or would like to create a mask for the project, please contact Diane Dugan at

It Opened My Eyes: “Unmasking Brain Injury 2.0” Videographer Shares his Thoughts

As a videographer, a big part of what I do is capture moments and create experiences out of those moments through storytelling. As I build a story through editing, it’s crucial to carefully listen to each interview in its entirety to put together the most cohesive final product. Often times during my editing process, I cannot help but immerse myself into the story being told by that individual. Prior to each interview with the brain injury survivors, I wasn’t quite sure of what to expect, but what I learned is that you can overcome any adversity with great support and the desire to keep moving forward in spite of.

I was informed during many of the interviews that brain injuries are sometimes undetectable to the average onlooker. Through the testimonies of these survivors, I’ve witnessed the obligations they have to reinforce to others that, even after their unfortunate causes and situations, they are still human beings who are capable of joy, love, and deserving of happiness.

This project was special to me because it opened my eyes to a situation that is poorly represented and discussed. However, I am excited that these survivors have a platform such as the Brain Injury Association for Michigan to tell their story, inform the masses, and possibly give hope to other survivors just like themselves. This experience has been great for me and I am glad that I had the chance to be a part of it!

Thank you,

Sean Bowman

Captured Screens Productions, LLC

Lids for Kids

No one debates the importance of wearing a helmet when riding a bike, but hardly anyone knows just how critical this one piece of safety equipment is in preventing injury. So here’s a relevant statistic: Roughly 88% of bike-related brain injuries and deaths could be prevented by wearing a properly fitted helmet. That’s the good news. What’s not so good is the percentage of bikers who actually wear helmets. That statistic is a sobering 18 percent. And even worse, only 15 percent of bikers under the age of 15 wear helmets. It’s the disjunction between the effect helmets have in preventing injuries and saving lives, on one hand, and the number of riders who actually use them, on the other, that prompted the Sinas Dramis Law firm to conceive and develop the Lids for Kids program. “In serving victims of vehicle accidents, which includes bicyclists,” reported Tom Sinas of the Sinas Dramis firm, “we saw firsthand the dangers posed by forgetting or even refusing to wear a helmet. We want people to wear helmets and we know this habit must be cultivated at an early age.” The statistics cited above are also what prompted the BIAMI’s interest in participating with Sinas Dramis as a co-sponsor. “As the conduit between brain injury survivors and Michigan’s extensive and outstanding network of brain injury professionals, we witness the impact of brain injury every day and have recognized the importance of prevention from day one,” said BIAMI President Tom Constand. “When our friends at Sinas Dramis discussed the prospect of BIAMI co-sponsoring these events, there wasn’t a second’s hesitation on our part. It completely aligns with our mission to reduce the incidence and impact of brain injury, and we’re proud to play a part in the continued and overwhelming success of this program.” Lids for Kids is a bike helmet giveaway and helmet-fitting program that serves kids in underserved neighborhoods. Since the program began in 2003, more than 10,000 bike helmets have been donated and the event has expanded from Lansing to also include helmet giveaways, trained volunteer fittings, and bike raffles in Traverse City and Grand Rapids. Recent events have even become community fun fests, with face-painting booths, prizes, police and fire department activities for kids, mascot visits, and live radio remote broadcasts. This caliber of success for Lids for Kids would not be possible without the support of local partners – BIAMI members Agevix in Traverse City, Origami in Lansing, and Mary Free Bed and Hope Network in Grand Rapids – not least because their staff member volunteers play key roles in the continued growth of this amazing program. 2018 has been the program’s most successful year to date with a combined total of over 1500 helmets given away and properly fitted. That’s a statistic worth bragging about, which is why the BIAMI would like to thank all Lids for Kids event sponsors, partners, and volunteers – with a very special thank you for the foundational efforts of Sinas Dramis and their ongoing and very much hands-on work in program administration, logistics, personnel, and financial support! There’s clearly a long way to go in promoting widespread bike helmet use and ultimately reducing the number of bicyclist injuries and deaths, but efforts such as Lids for Kids are indeed having an impact on the statistics and keeping our very youngest riders in particular safe from bike-related head injuries.
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