Recovering From Brain Injury Is An On-Going Process
Much has changed in the way we view, treat, and help brain injury victims. Many misconceptions, such as the myth that injury victims recover in only one year, have been disproved; and, every day, new research gives us insight into how we can better help those with brain injury.
In her article, Recovering From Brain Injury, Judith Falconer, Ph.D., discusses some of the new (and old) ways in which medical professionals believe we can maximize an injured person’s chances to lead a fulfilling, successful life.
Head injuries make the injured individual different but not necessarily worse.
One of the first things families of the injured should realize is that brain injury will not necessarily make the victim a “worse” person — while it is true that brain injury victims might have trouble with impulse control and show impaired social skills — with patience, acceptable behaviors can be learned.
Professionals now agree that the first step to rehabilitation is to, first, help the injured regain control of their behavior and emotions. Learning how to cope with sadness, anger, and frustration should be one of the main goals — considering these are very valid, frequent emotions when dealing with injuries.
Consistent and frequent practice of new skills is also key. Brain injury victims often have trouble translating skills from one place to another — for example, skills learned in speech therapy might “disappear” outside the therapist’s office. It is important, then, that each new skills is practiced constantly and consistently, so that the patient can eventually generalize it and apply it to different settings.
When injured individuals are transported to another city or state, much of what they learn cannot be applied when they return home: the familiar cues which facilitated recall in the treatment setting disappear and the new behavior cannot be elicited. Therefore, whenever possible, rehabilitation should occur in the individual’s home and community.
It is also important, in helping brain injury victims rebuild their lives, that those around them do not unconditionally accept the inappropriate behaviors that might show up.
Head injured individuals have enough problems without increasing their burden by accepting any and all behavior. If family members tolerate behavior which drives others away, the injured individual becomes increasingly isolated from human contact and the burden on the caregiver becomes immense.
It is possible for a victim of brain injury to relearn old skills, and even acquire new ones, that will facilitate their daily lives. It is, however, an on-going process. Families and loved ones of the injured must, above all, never believe that the patient has hit a “plateau”, or that further recovery is not possible. Not losing hope, and remaining realistic in our expectations, is the first step to life after injury.