Brain Injury and Everyday Challenges
The news article, Acquired brain injury: survivor tells of challenges and struggles while rehabilitating, highlights the struggles of everyday life that someone with brain injury has to deal with, and draws attention to the difference between what people see on the outside, versus what might be going on inside.
“Simple tasks he used to breeze through are now fatiguing and take great concentration.”
“He struggles to keep up with the general pace of day-to-day life and often becomes lost in his own thoughts due to the damage caused to his brain function.”
“On the outside, he is a tall, strong 40-year-old man but on the inside, he is uncertain and nervous.”
BRAIN INJURY CAN BE FAR FROM OBVIOUS
While it may seem that challenges would be expected, it is so easy for friends, family members or the average person to not notice how difficult simple things can be for the person with a brain injury, particularly if the physical injuries are minimal or have healed. The brain injury itself is invisible! It is the symptoms and deficits which present themselves, and while some may be obvious, including word finding or memory problems, others are often more subtle, such as difficulty following what is being said and adjusting to topic changes. Friends may not understand that reading and responding to a simple email is exhausting. Family may not recognise that quickly running through weekend plans on the way out the door doesn’t even get processed. The bank teller may not realize that the main point of the conversation was never even reached and that only confusion resulted.
One reason this article caught my attention and resonated with me, is that one of my clients with mild brain injury recently talked about how family and friends had become disconnected and were carrying on with their lives. He also shared how it is so hard to meet and interact with new people, even those who work in the brain injury field, because no two people with brain injury are struggling with the same difficulties, at the same level, or in the same way. While he understood that other people really had no way of knowing or understanding exactly what he was experiencing, he also had to deal with the related sadness and frustration that goes along with this insight.
BRAIN INJURY AND REHABILITATION
In comparison, rehabilitation team members may be more familiar with and understand the long list of symptoms and difficulties that are part of brain injury. Yet at the same time, it can still be easy to get caught up in the world of rehabilitation, and forget about the everyday basic stuff. As clinicians, we are naturally therapy focused and goal oriented. It can be a real challenge to help a client make progress in their specific areas of difficulty, and at the same time recognize and incorporate their individual and everyday needs.
IDEAL TREATMENT APPROACH
This article highlights the importance of a functional approach to speech-language pathology treatment with individuals with brain injury, such as helping clients deal with simple decision making or everyday communication challenges. It also emphasizes the benefit to therapeutic counselling, and focusing on goals such as improving insight and acceptance, or increasing overall communication confidence.
Amanda Brown is a Speech-Language Pathologist with nearly a decade of experience in providing assessment and treatment to clients in the clinic and community settings. Amanda enjoys working with clients of all ages and applies a strong client-centred approach to her therapy, balanced with family/team collaboration.