For years, when people hurt their heads so badly their behaviors were affected, there wasn’t a lot to do about it. But with current recent research into traumatic brain injuries, we’ve learned that there’s a lot taking place in the body as someone recovers, but there are ways to lessen the effects from skilled positions such as physical therapists and occupational therapists.
The team at Accredited Home Care follows current research into traumatic brain injuries. Some of our clients have these conditions. Others are at higher risk for hurting themselves such as in a fall or similar trauma.
Traumatic brain injuries could be caused by any sort of damage to the head, from a light concussion to a damaged skull, everything from a fall to an auto collision. They can cause changes in behavior, changes in mobility, and changes in other aspects of life.
Repeated blows to the head or multiple concussions can further aggravate past traumatic brain injuries. This has been seen recently in athletes who have suffered years of collisions and now have difficulties with even basic functions.
Closer to home
In some cases, seniors who live alone who suffer a traumatic brain injury may require changes in their life. They may no longer be able to perform certain tasks by themselves, as much as they want to.
There also may be fear of future injuries: one’s risk of a catastrophic fall increases if they’ve had a previous fall that caused injuries. Plus, a head injury that you may think of as mild may still impact your memory and abilities.
Family members, loved ones, or even health care providers may recommend that a senior either relocate to an assisted living community or rehabilitation facility that has more services, or a 24-hour caregiver.
Neither option will likely be that appealing to a senior who enjoys their independence, which could be an incentive to look for ways to get help.
One method that seems to have positive results is occupational therapy. While some people may think of it as something that helps you get back to work, it actually is much more.
Occupational therapy basically teaches people skills to function independently. For seniors, this could include getting in and out of bed, grooming and dressing, preparing and eating food, cleaning, and other domestic activities.
Being able to demonstrate competence in these areas could make the difference between having the freedom to do these things by oneself or requiring help.
Besides teaching clients these basic skills or a combination of skills, occupational therapists also can have a role in evaluating a client’s living space including how safe it is.
They can identify potential safety hazards through the home and suggest ways to minimize them.
For instance, they may see area rugs and recommend their removal. These can be potential tripping hazards because of the uneven surface. They also can catch a cane or walker and cause someone to lose their balance or fall.
Likewise, places like bathrooms can be evaluated by an occupational therapist. Bathrooms can be especially dangerous because of the hard, sharp surfaces and how they can be slippery with water.
So an occupational therapist might suggest adding a shower chair, handles, or no-slip stickers in the bathtub, and work with the client to make sure they are able to get in and out without assistance.
How occupational therapy can help
As more is learned about traumatic brain injuries, there’s also more research into how occupational therapy can help.
The National Library of Medicine determined that occupational therapists can provide benefits when working with clients with concussions. It concluded that an occupational therapist brings important skills and should be part of any intervention team including a provider.
The study also said that the performance and recovery of a client with a concussion can increase if an occupational therapist was involved in the initial evaluation.
A similar study showed that occupational therapists can have a vital role in helping with cognitive rehabilitation. They can focus on getting a client to learn, or re-learn, basic tasks such as sitting, standing, and moving.
Part of education into traumatic brain injuries can include more research as well as telling more people what you’ve learned.
That’s part of the thinking of the Brain Injury Association of America, an organization that offers information all about the brain and brain injuries.
Each spring, the group observes Brain Injury Awareness Month in March, a day to encourage more research and also invite medical professionals who offer services to those with brain injuries to connect.
The organization has already chosen themes for 2021 and 2023: #morethanmybraininjury. This encourages people to focus on the whole person and how they have overcome difficulties, not just their brain.
It advocates letting people know more about traumatic brain injuries, since many people may not be familiar with it. It also has a goal of reducing any stigma.