Treatment options available for brain injury patients

For many, when a brain injury diagnosis is given, the family may feel hopeless. However, with outstanding state of the art research, hope is being restored to many. In an article published for the Brain Injury Resource Center, treatment options available to brain injury patients is outlined.

The article states, “Brain injury rehabilitation involves two essential processes: restoration of functions that can be restored and learning how to do things differently when functions cannot be restored to pre-injury level.”

Brain injury rehabilitation is based on the nature and scope of neuropsychological symptoms identified on special batteries of test designed to measure brain functioning following brain injury.

Brain recovery follows patterns of brain development. Large-scale systems must develop or be retrained before fine systems. Attention, focus, and perceptual skills develop or are retrained before complex intellectual activity can be successful. In other words, basic skills must be strengthened before more complex skills can be added.

Following an injury, once the person’s physical condition has stabilized, a speech-language pathologist may evaluate cognitive and communication skills, and a neuropsychologist may evaluate other cognitive and behavioral abilities to determine what functions or abilities need to develop or retrained.

The cognitive and communication problems of traumatic brain injury are best treated early, often beginning while the individual is still in the hospital. This early therapy will frequently center on increasing skills of alertness and attention. They will focus on improving orientation to person, place, time, and situation, and stimulating speech understanding. The therapist will provide oral-motor exercises in cases where the individual has speech and swallowing problems.

Longer term rehabilitation may be performed individually, in groups, or both, depending upon the needs of the individual. This therapy often occurs in a rehabilitation facility designed specifically for the treatment of individuals with traumatic brain injury. This type of setting allows for intensive therapy by speech-language pathologists, physical therapists, occupational therapists, and neuropsychologists at a time when the individual can best benefit from such intensive therapy.

Other individuals may receive therapy at home by visiting therapists or on an outpatient basis at a hospital, medical center, or rehabilitation facility.

The goal of rehabilitation is to help the individual progress to the most independent level of functioning possible. For some, ability to express needs verbally in simple terms may be a goal. For others, the goal may be to express needs by pointing to pictures. For still others, the goal of therapy may be to improve the ability to define words or describe consequences of actions or events.

Therapy will focus on regaining lost skills as well as learning ways to compensate for abilities that have been permanently changed because of the brain injury. Most individuals respond best to programs tailored to their backgrounds and interests. The most effective therapy programs involve family members who can best provide this information. Computer-assisted programs have been successful with some individuals.

There is hope for brain injury patients. Hope for life restored. Hope through therapy and rehabilitation.

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