In an instant, the lives of those who sustain an Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) and their families are changed forever. This leaves the person with a brain injury and loved ones with no time to prepare for the unique and extraordinary challenges that are immediate and for many, difficulties that last a lifetime due to the chronic and life-long duration of the injury.
Whether one sustains a concussion and experiences post concussive syndrome, or a moderate to severe brain injury, the challenges can be “catastrophic”. Although the term “catastrophic impairment” is a legal term that establishes what benefits a person may be entitled to after an injury in a motor vehicle collision, the consequences of any brain injury often is “catastrophic” to the person who sustained the brain injury and their families.
When an individual sustains an ABI, the entire family is affected in immediate and often unpredictable ways. A 2010 study on family caregivers’ needs after brain injury found that caregivers experience an extreme sense of isolation, both emotionally and socially. The combination of caregiving responsibilities and other people’s lack of awareness of ABI led to increasing separation from friends, family and society over time. The study further found that caregivers struggled to manage the associated ABI sequela, including behavioural problems, cognitive deficits, poor social skills and changes in personality of the person they were caring for.
For example, one of our partners, a community mental health agency was overwhelmed when they first opened their services to ABI survivors. Staff found that in the amount of time it took to support one ABI client, they could have supported three to five mental health clients. Therefore, the complexity they encountered with one ABI client required the same amount of resources as three to five mental health clients. If meeting the needs of ABI survivors is so challenging for experienced service providers, just imagine how overwhelming it is for family and friends who suddenly find themselves thrown into the role of caregiver, a role that can last a lifetime.
I also think of Betty* whose life was changed in an instant, after she sustained a severe concussion. Betty has a very high profile and demanding career. Medical appointments, specialists and other health practitioners, consumed her time and yet, unfortunately did little to help her manage her symptoms. She is now able to return to work, however, when she returns home at the end of the workday she has little to no energy and feels she cannot contribute to the family in a practical or emotional supportive way. This concussion has proven to have a catastrophic impact on Betty and her family.
There are many other “Bettys” who are facing the same struggles. OBIA not only understands the struggles, heartaches and hardships that can happen after brain injury, but we are committed to supporting both the person who has sustained the injury and their family members.
Please feel free to contact our helpline (1-800-263- 5404), join one of our concussion support groups, or attend one of our Caregiver Education sessions. Go to www.obia.ca to see how OBIA can help you or your loved one.
*Name changed to protect privacy