Brain Injury Awareness Month
“Brain injury survivors may require more time to think or speak, and it does not mean we have lost our intelligence. It means our brains are recovering, please respect us.” – Unknown
In Canada, June is Brain Injury Awareness Month. Every year, many organizations and associations across the country come together to shine a light on this, often-invisible, trauma.
In this article we’ll be discussing a few different types of brain injuries, the effects that a brain injury can cause, as well as the ways on how to support those who may be suffering.
Types of Brain Injuries
According to Brain Injury Canada, acquired brain injuries (ABIs) currently affect over 1.5 million Canadians. With brain injuries happening so consistently, it’s important to educate and spread awareness around prevention, as well as the impact of more traumatic cases.
There are three main types of acquired brain injuries:
- Concussions occur when the brain is shaken inside the skull. This type of brain injury generally means that there is no severe structural damage, symptoms and term differ from person to person.
- Traumatic brain injuries refer to those that are caused by outdoor forces, including motor vehicle accidents, assaults, and sports-related injuries.
- Non-traumatic brain injuries are triggered by inside forces like strokes, brain tumours, or substance abuse.
The Effects of Brain Injury
Because a brain injury is such a life changing event, it will almost always result in some form of long and/or short-term effects. These effects differ for everyone on a case-by-case basis, the most common are categorized below:
- Cognitive: Changes in cognitive abilities won’t happen in every patient, although they are common. After brain injuries, one may struggle with their focus, their judgement and ability to problem solve. Other common changes include trouble with communication skills, memory, and overall self-awareness.
- Physical: When it comes to the physical effects that may happen after a traumatic brain injury, one may experience problems with coordination, chronic pain, and a lot of times, insomnia. Those suffering may also have trouble with everyday mobility, which unfortunately can lead to increased mental challenges.
- Behavioural: As previously mentioned, the most catastrophic and traumatic brain injuries are likely to change lives forever. This includes altered behaviours that may not have been there before, such as increased aggression, anxiety, denial, and loss of self-image.
- Emotional: On the emotional side, after suffering from a brain injury, a person’s ability to process and respond to different emotions and situations may change. When paired with new behaviours, it takes time to re-learn how to manage emotions and learn about them.
Healing from a Brain Injury
Recovering from a brain injury is a challenging process, and it’s likely that those suffering may never return to their previous selves. When it comes to the steps taken to ensure that the patient receives the best possible chances of healing, it’s important to consider and practice the following.
- Rehabilitation is key to recovery. The first two years after a significant brain injury being crucial when it comes to the best possible chances of long-term healing. It is important to work with a trained professional in neurological rehabilitation to create a tailored plan of action to help redevelop skills and capabilities and regain independence.
- Set small goals. Although recovering from a brain injury is no easy feat, the key may be in the smallest acts with goals you can incorporate into your daily routine to ensure you’re able to make as much of a recovery as possible.
- Prioritize sleep. Resting during the day is imperative, and essential to your healing. Additionally, avoid participating in activities that are physically demanding and that require a level of high concentration, since these items may worsen your symptoms and slow down your recovery = patience is key!
- Focus on one thing at a time. It’s common that those with brain injuries will become easily distracted, which is why it’s also so important to focus on one thing at a time — multitasking isn’t recommended, so watching TV while making your next meal might not be the best idea.
Brain Injury Canada has a multitude of inspiring stories about individuals who have gone through the recovery process themselves. Learn about their tips for healing and their experiences with traumatic brain injury.
How to Support Those Who are Suffering
A common question we receive is how friends and families can help support their loved one suffering from any type of brain injury. Although it can be emotionally difficult for everyone involved, the importance of remaining patient is undeniable. They are most likely to find the uncertainties of brain injury recovery unsettling, which is why it’s so crucial to stay calm and to be there for them with whatever they may need. Recovery takes time.
Brain Injury Canada is a great resource designed for friends and family members who have taken on the role of caregiver or even just hope to support in other ways like educating themselves. Being a caregiver and being close to someone with a brain injury may have a mental, emotional, and potentially even physical effect on overall health and lifestyle, meaning that along with caring for the patient, it’s also crucial to take care of everyone involved.
We encourage everyone to take some time this month to educate oneself on the effects of how brain injuries can drastically change your life. As an often-invisible disability, it may be hard to tell when someone is struggling, however it’s important to understand how they need to be supported. The Brain Injury Canada website has a fantastic list of Canada-wide associations that are here to support and to educate. Additionally, if you are looking for assistance with rehabilitation or another specialized service to help improve quality of life, our skilled and compassionate team of healthcare professionals at Transitions Rehabilitation + Healthcare can help.