Newsletter: Week of March 18, 2020
Grand Rapids, Michigan, January 15, 2020
The Brain Injury Association of Michigan is launching Think aHEAD, a year-long statewide campaign encouraging children and teens to wear helmets while participating in recreational sports.
The Think aHEAD campaign is aimed to increase helmet usage, prevent brain injuries and save lives. The initiative will work to break down the misguided perception that it is “not cool” to wear a helmet while participating in sports that do not regulate helmet use, such as skiing, snowboarding, biking, roller skating, horseback riding or skateboarding.
To kick off the campaign, the BIAMI is partnering with ski resorts across the state to increase helmet use among skiers and snowboarders. Participating ski resorts in West Michigan include Cannonsburg, Caberfae Peaks and others.
Children and teens “caught” wearing helmets by ski patrol at the participating resorts will be rewarded with a coupon for a free hot chocolate from McDonalds courtesy of the Michigan Snowsports Industries Association. Those without helmets will be given a coupon for a 20% discount on a ski or snowboarding helmet at one of more than 25 participating retailers located across the state.
“The Think aHEAD campaign represents a new and exciting challenge for us, allowing the BIAMI to focus externally on an initiative designed to increase helmet usage, prevent brain injuries and save lives,” said the BIAMI President and CEO Thomas J. Constand. “We are using positive reinforcement to encourage helmet use by incentivizing kids and teens to protect their most valuable possession – their brains – by choosing to wear a helmet.”
During warmer seasons, the BIAMI will enlist police officers, firefighters and others from across the state to award those wearing helmets during recreational sports such as bicycling, skateboarding, roller skating and roller blading, among others.
The Think aHEAD campaign is made possible with the help of community sponsors, including Children’s Foundation, Spectrum Health, Michigan Snowsports Industries Association, Helen DeVos Children’s Hospital, Boyne Country Sports, Hope Network, Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital, Sinas Dramis Law Firm, Safe Kids Michigan and Sabo PR.
“We are proud to partner with organizations that share our passion for promoting the benefits of wearing a helmet,” Constand said. “We would not be able to help save the lives of so many without their support.”
According to a 2012 Johns Hopkins-led study, approximately 10 million Americans ski or snowboard each year, with approximately 600,000 injuries reported annually. Of these, 20% are brain injuries, which mostly occur among skiers and snowboarders.
In a 2016 study by the American Journal of Surgery that tracked 6,257 patients suffering a bicycling injury, 52% sustained a Traumatic Brain Injury, or TBI. The same journal found that helmet use provides protection against severe TBI, reduces facial fractures and saves lives even after sustaining an intracranial hemorrhage. According to the Snell Memorial Foundation, medical costs associated with unhelmeted bicyclists is approximately $3.2 billion annually.
“There is a negative stigma that it isn’t cool to wear a helmet, especially during recreational sports,” said Brooke Brewer, a former professional snowboarder who survived a traumatic brain injury during Olympic training because she was wearing a helmet. “Being smart enough to wear a helmet saved my life – and I’m overjoyed that the Think aHEAD campaign will spread the importance of helmet usage and save the lives of others, too.”
Established in 1981, the BIAMI is one of the longest-running and productive affiliates of the Brain Injury Association of America. The BIAMI is committed to reducing the incidence and impact of brain injury through advocacy, awareness, education, prevention, research and support.
For more information about the Think aHEAD campaign or how to become a community partner, please visit biami.org/engage/thinkahead.
Using Help to Pinpoint Proper Care Following Brain Injury
After a brain injury, many survivors require help in one form or another. Some people require extensive support, while others need only a limited amount of services. This is often reduced with time and rehabilitation, but chronic complications with some injuries may create an increased need for assistance years after a diagnosis is made. Identifying the help that is needed is often a fluid, unfolding process; but being aware of the different categories of caregiving options can provide guidance when searching for the correct level of support.
In persons with brain injury, the amount of outside assistance required to carry out essential functions in everyday life is formally known as acuity. An interdisciplinary team of neurological professionals can help determine a person’s acuity by identifying what, if any, supports are needed. By reviewing documentation and collaborating with caregivers who provide supporting information about behaviors they observe from their clients or loved ones, risks, and care needs are identified relating to three specific areas:
Acuity isn’t only about identifying the type of help an individual needs, however. Acuity also determines the coverage and intensity of this assistance. In other words, it identifies how much and how demanding the support can be.
Coverage refers to the portion of the day or specific times when help is needed. This may be expressed as supervision hours (e.g. up to six hours daily), or for specific events or portions of the day, like during mealtimes or supervision during waking hours only.
Intensity considers the demand of a caregiver’s attention. In hospitals and rehab facilities alike, this is often referred to as a ratio of supporting persons to the number of people they are helping. People with severe injuries may need someone to provide assistance exclusively to them (1:1 support), while others may be safe with an assistant who helps them along with two others at the same time (3:1 support). Intensity also factors in the distance these caregivers can be from their patients; whether that be to stay within an arm’s length at all times, or simply making sure an individual is within their line of sight.
Being familiar with each category of care — and identifying exactly where a patient falls within them — can greatly help when advocating for the correct and necessary support an individual needs. Professional assessments that pinpoint the precise what, when, and how much help a person requires, as well as careful documentation by healthcare providers and caregivers that support these findings, not only improves opportunities for ongoing coverage from funders, but also allows a person the best chance at success and fulfillment in their lifestyle following brain injury.
Martin J. Waalkes, Ph.D., ABPP(rp), CBIS-T
Director of Neuro Rehabilitation
Hope Network Neuro Rehabilitation
Many are familiar with the motorcycle safety public service announcements that resurface each year. With the beautiful Michigan summer in full swing, motorcyclists are eager to hit the roads, making these safety reminders especially important. Whether you are in a vehicle or on a motorcycle, taking extra precautions can keep everyone safe on the roads.
For a refresher on safely sharing the roads with motorcyclists this summer, view this article from Michigan.gov. For anyone who prefers a motorcycle to a car this time of year, here are few simple, but important reminders to keep you safe this season.
Following these simple, but important, safety tips can make the roads safer for everyone this riding season.
April Toivonen, MA, CCC-SLP, CBIS
Language Pathologist (and avid motorcyclist)
Origami Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center
Independence Day can be a time to celebrate for many. It is a time to spend with family, enjoy rest and relaxation, and even revel in the excitement of fireworks. For those with a brain injury, though, this holiday may look and feel very different.
Brain injury can bring many unpleasant symptoms, including physical changes (fatigue, pain), photophobia (light sensitivity), overstimulation to noises and crowds, and many emotional changes like anxiety and depression. Despite all of the changes that survivors feel on the inside, brain injury is often referred to as “an invisible injury” because others may not recognize the individual has sustained a brain injury. Many of the cognitive, emotional, and physical changes are unnoticeable to others on the outside. What used to be pleasant holidays and get-togethers, like Independence Day, may pose a variety of challenges for those with brain injury.
Some individuals with brain injury may even be living with a mental health condition known as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). PTSD can develop after exposure to a traumatic or life-threatening event, such as a car accident, a fall, or combat-related incident in the military. PTSD may mean that someone experiences flashbacks, nightmares, or is overly aware of their surroundings. For Independence Day, fireworks may be an unpleasant reminder of the trauma they experienced.
The good news is there is hope for those with brain injury to endure and enjoy the holidays once again, with small changes to their usual traditions. Here are a few tips for individuals with brain injury, as well as their support system, for navigating this upcoming holiday.
Tips for Individuals with Brain Injury
Communication Tips for Brain Injury Supporters
These are just a few ways for everyone to show their understanding and support for individuals with brain injury during this holiday season.
Dr. Amanda Lopez PhD, LP, CBIS
Origami Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center
Driving is the ultimate symbol of independence and control. Losing the ability to drive after a traumatic brain injury (TBI) may feel devastating and can greatly affect a person’s quality of life during recovery. But considering that driving is one of the most dangerous activities we do on a daily basis, the decision of if and when to return to driving can be complex. Safe driving requires a number of skills which may be altered after a TBI including:
Research indicates that 50-70% of people with moderate to severe TBI will return to driving regardless of recommendations from their healthcare team or safety concerns (Schultheis & Whipple, 2014) (Classen, 2009). That’s why it’s important for TBI survivors to discuss and address return to driving with their healthcare team openly and honestly.
As a first step in the path towards returning to drive, therapists are able to incorporate pre-driving skills into therapy sessions. These pre-driving therapy sessions focus on remediating, refining and strengthening any of the above skills that may impact driving ability or safety. Many rehabilitation providers offer pre-driving screenings or programming to jumpstart the process.
After pre-driving skills are mastered, TBI survivors can benefit from working with a Certified Driving Rehabilitation Specialists (CDRS) for on-the-road training. These experts also assist in obtaining and practicing the use of adaptive equipment. Various types of equipment such as hand controls and adaptive steering wheels can be used if traditional foot pedals or wheels are not optimal. A CDRS can even help coordinate securing an adaptive vehicle with ramp access and modified seating if necessary.
Safe return to driving after a traumatic brain injury is possible with the right training and resources. The first step toward safely getting behind the wheel after a traumatic brain injury is starting a conversation with the rehabilitation team.
Angela West, MSOT, OTRL
Occupational Therapist + Therapy Best Practices Coordinator
Special Tree Rehabilitation System