I got the call from Mom after 11 at night. She wasn’t feeling right. She had woken up after falling asleep on the recliner while watching TV. When she got up, she was dizzy. Mom said the room seemed to tilt and she had to grab onto furniture to slowly navigate to the phone. She felt intense pressure inside her head.

If my mom had ignored how she was feeling and just gone to bed to sleep it off, she probably would have suffered some level of paralysis. Or she might have died as actor Bob Saget did on January 9 when he lay down and fell asleep not knowing his brain was bleeding.

It’s been reported the brain hemorrhage Saget experienced likely was the result of blunt head trauma. Perhaps the actor had banged his head on a door frame or he had taken a tumble – what medical professionals and care providers call an “unwitnessed fall.” Likely he brushed it off as many of us would do and perhaps take aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen if we felt a headache come on.

A Reminder to Know the Warning Signs and Your Risk

The untimely death of the popular actor and comedian at 65 serves as a reminder for all of us, but especially older Americans and seniors, that a head injury – even one that appears mild – can warrant medical attention. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2019 more than 60,000 Americans died from a traumatic brain injury (TBI). The highest numbers of hospitalizations and deaths were seen in the 75-and-older demographic.

You don’t have to hit your head to suffer a brain bleed. Those who are taking blood thinner (antiplatelet) medication to offset the risk for blood clots as a symptom of a chronic condition or following surgery are at higher risk of bleeding in the brain. The National Blood Clot Alliance estimates that 2 to 3 million Americans are prescribed blood thinners, including aspirin, to prevent blood clots or reduce the risk of stroke or a heart attack. There’s no indication that the “Full House” star was taking a blood thinner, but seniors who do are at even higher risk of a brain hemorrhage and need to avoid hitting their head or taking a fall.

When my 81-year-old mother called me that night, she had been taking a blood thinner for nearly six months. She had been prescribed the medication after developing a lung clot post-surgery. Thankfully, she did not fall after getting up and feeling disoriented. Fortunately, I got her to the ER and she received immediate treatment. Mercifully, the subdural hematoma she suffered was small and did not cause permanent damage. Luckily, the lung clot dissolved, and she no longer takes a blood thinner.

Symptoms of a Brain Bleed

According to Cleveland Clinic, here are the signs to watch for if you think you or a senior loved one is experiencing an intercranial hemorrhage (bleeding that occurs between the brain tissue and skull or within the brain tissue):

  • Confusion or dizziness
  • Loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden tingling, weakness, numbness, or paralysis
  • Headache, especially a severe “thunderclap headache”
  • Trouble breathing
  • Abnormal heart rate
  • Change in alertness, feeling extremely sleepy
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Seizures
  • Abnormal or slurred speech
  • Loss of vision or difficulty seeing, sensitivity to light
  • Stiff neck
  • Difficulty understanding speech or reading or writing


If Left Untreated, a Brain Bleed May Result in Long-Term Effects

Experts say it is better to be safe than sorry, in particular if you or a senior loved one are in severe pain or experiencing any other neurological symptoms. However, sometimes the symptoms of a brain bleed can be subtle – such as muscle weakness, impaired vision or a headache that feels different and doesn’t go away with medication. In some cases, symptoms develop over the course of a few weeks.

They advise to never be alone for the first 24 hours following a head injury, especially if you are taking blood thinner medication.

The CDC recommends that adults seek immediate emergency care for these clear and present danger signs:

  • A worsening headache that does not go away
  • Numbness, convulsions or seizures
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Slurred speech or unusual behavior
  • Have one pupil larger than the other
  • Lose consciousness or cannot wake up

A knowledgeable Amada Senior Care advisor can provide guidance on how you or a senior loved one who is a fall risk can live at home safely and independently. We’re here to help, so feel free to call us toll-free at 866-752-1961 or click here to find an Amada franchise location near you.


“Bob Saget’s Death Spotlights Warning Signs of Brain Bleed in Seniors” written by Michelle Flores, Amada blog contributor.