Being Mindful on Independence Day

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
  • Plan ahead: speak with family and friends to identify a safe and enjoyable way to enjoy the holiday
  • Manage fatigue: be well-rested leading up to the celebration and take breaks when needed
  • Reduce sensory overstimulation: taking noise-cancelling earphones, sunglasses, or hats may reduce the sensory input during fireworks and around large crowds
  • Choose your location carefully: if you choose to enjoy a live celebration of fireworks, choose a seat furthest away from the action
  • Explore your options: forego the live fireworks and watch them from the comfort (and quietness) of your home
Communication Tips for Brain Injury Supporters
  • Ask first: ask the person with brain injury their preference for activities for the holiday
  • Offer support: if they choose to sit out on certain activities, join them and provide company
  • Find a balance: compromise on traditions and swap out events with new activities your loved one is most comfortable with
  • Have a back-up plan: identify alternative activities if your loved one is not feeling up to the festivities at that time
  • Plan your escape: in the event that your loved one is triggered by something during the activity, have a plan for minimizing distress and moving to a more comfortable place
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
Psychology Supervisor
Origami Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center

To Drive or Not to Drive? Getting Behind the Wheel after a Traumatic Brain Injury

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:
  • Visual acuity and perception
  • Memory to recall directions or destination
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Reaction time
  • Safety awareness and judgment
  • Sustained and alternating attention
  • Range of motion and strength of arms, legs and neck
  • Confidence behind the wheel
  • Anxiety level
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.

References:

  • Classen, S. e. (2009). Traumatic brain injury and driving assessment; and evidence-based literature review. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 580-591.
  • Schultheis, M. T., & Whipple, E. (2014). Driving after traumatic brain injury:evaluation and rehabilitation interventions. Current Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Reports, 176-183.
Angela West, MSOT, OTRL
Occupational Therapist + Therapy Best Practices Coordinator
Special Tree Rehabilitation System

Brain Injury Association of Michigan: One-Sided No-Fault Reform Bill Doesn’t Go the Distance

Association joins Gov. Whitmer and House Democrats in calling for strong consumer protection, permanent rate relief, and long-term solutions

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE For more information:
Janna Wilson
(248) 810.229.5880 LANSING, Mich. (May 9, 2019) – The passage of SB1 and HB 4397 may now be a reality, but those who protect consumers want more. In response, President and CEO of Brain Injury Association of Michigan (BIAMI) Tom Constand issued the following statement: “We thank Gov. Whitmer and House Democrats for standing up for Michigan consumers in rejecting the bill as written. Although it addresses the basic tenets of reform, it does little to ensure a permanent solution. Moreover, instead of allowing for constructive committee discussion and debate, this 82-page bill was railroaded through the House in the middle of the night with no opportunity for thoughtful deliberation.” “We are looking for fair, reasonable and sustainable legislation that provides strong consumer protections, offers immediate rate relief and protects benefits for the insured. This bill provides weak concessions that don’t ensure ongoing rate relief, provides a pittance of coverage options, and will leave survivors and their families even more exposed to the unethical and predatory practices of the insurance industry. We must do better than this.” About the Brain Injury Association of Michigan
The Brain Injury Association of Michigan is dedicated to enhancing the lives of those affected by brain injury through education, advocacy, research and local support groups, and to reducing the incidence of brain injury through prevention. Founded in 1981, Brighton, Michigan-based BIAMI is a national leader in its efforts on behalf of the approximately 200,000 Michigan residents who live with disabilities as a result of a brain injury.

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Brain Injury Association of Michigan
7305 Grand River, Suite 100
Brighton, MI 48114-7379
BIAMI.ORG

If you support Governor Whitmer, please add your name to our petition on Change.org.

Celebrating Brain Injury Awareness Month

Brain injury is often referred to as an “invisible” injury or disability since the effects of the injury are not always visible or immediately evident. However, to anyone who has suffered a brain injury, or to those that care about someone who has, the effects of brain injury are complex and can pervade many aspects of the individual’s life. Brain injury can be difficult to understand, the symptoms can be significant, and the rehabilitation process can be extensive. We are proud to join brain injury survivors, caregivers, and supporters in celebrating Brain Injury Awareness Month. For decades, the Brain Injury Association of America (BIAA) has led a nationwide public awareness campaign during the month of March to de-stigmatize brain injury through outreach and education.
According to the Brain Injury Association of Michigan (BIAMI), in Michigan alone, 58,500 people sustain a brain injury each year. The truth is that no one plans for a brain injury, but brain injuries can happen to anyone, at any time. Please join us this month as we spread awareness and educate others on the definition of brain injury, its causes, and where to seek proper rehabilitative care.

What is a Brain Injury?

Just as there are no two people alike, no two brain injuries are the same. An acquired brain injury is an injury to the brain that has occurred after birth; these injuries are not a result of heredity, nor are they congenital or degenerative. There are two types of acquired brain injuries, non-traumatic and traumatic. A non-traumatic brain injury is caused by damage to the brain by internal factors, such as lack of oxygen, exposure to toxins, pressure from a tumor, and so on. A traumatic brain injury is an injury to the brain that is caused by an outside force or impact that is sudden and damaging.

Common Causes of Brain Injury

  • Stroke
  • Anoxia/hypoxia (lack of oxygen to the brain)
  • Neurotoxic poisoning (ingestion of insecticides, solvents, lead)
  • Tumors
  • Virus/infection
  • Seizures
  • Falls
  • Motor vehicle accidents
  • Struck by an object
  • Sports
  • Improvised Explosive Device (IED)
  • Assault

Brain Injury Recovery

Following a brain injury, it is imperative to receive the proper rehabilitative care. Brain injury survivors can experience an array of cognitive, physical, and emotional/behavioral challenges. These symptoms can often concur feelings of hopelessness in survivors and caregivers, but there is hope. The goal of brain injury rehabilitation is to maximize function and encourage survivors to achieve their fullest potential. Origami Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center brings together a team of experts from the following disciplines including physiatry, psychiatry, psychology, physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech-language pathology, recreational therapy, rehabilitation nursing, vocational, and more in order to tailor a care plan to the needs of each survivor. The rehabilitation journey begins with a thorough assessment to identify the individual’s exact needs and goals. At Origami, survivors and their support systems are an essential part of the interdisciplinary team and the rehabilitation journey. It is important brain injury survivors and caregivers know they are not alone on this journey. If you have a question about brain injury or if you are interested in learning more about brain injury rehabilitation, please visit our website at origamirehab.org or call us at 517-336-6060. For those looking for support, visit BIAMI's Support Group page or call them at (800) 444-6443. Origami Brain Injury Rehabilitation Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization located in Lansing, Michigan. Origami provides comprehensive rehabilitation care for survivors of brain injuries and their families. Through their compassionate and innovative services, Origami creates opportunities and transforms lives.

What is Therapeutic Recreation?

February is National Therapeutic Recreation Month. If you’re wondering what therapeutic recreation is, you’re not alone. It’s the question recreational therapists get asked the most! Therapeutic recreation uses recreational and leisure activities to promote well-being and overall fitness with the goal of improving, maintaining or restoring physical strength, cognition, and mobility for individuals with a disability or illness. Recreational therapists get to know each patient and what motivates them so they can participate in enjoyable leisure activities to address functional skills for recovery. In a rehabilitation setting, recreational therapists work closely with a patient’s rehabilitation team to help them achieve their therapy goals. Recreational therapy, as it’s also known, encompasses a wide array of activities that focus on community integration, exercise and strength training, sports specific adaptations, and aquatic therapy/aquatic exercise. An activity is considered recreational therapy when it’s used as a treatment modality to maximize skill development and improve quality of life. For example, participating in a leisure activity in the community may increase life satisfaction while also connecting a person to community resources, improving time and money management skills, and increasing confidence in getting from one place to another. Recreational therapy can be very beneficial for a person who has sustained a TBI. After a brain injury, a person may experience various lifestyle changes which may include a decrease in leisure participation, increase in free time, loss of income, decrease in social skills which affects old friendships and establishing new ones, a shift to more sedentary activities, and less social activities. Experiencing these changes can have a negative impact on life satisfaction and quality of life. When an individual is ready to return to leisure interests, recreational therapy can address these changes to help individuals find new ways to enjoy life which also positively impacts the recovery process. Kristin Claerhout, CTRS, CBIS
Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist
Special Tree Rehabilitation System
Brain + Spinal Cord Rehabilitation

How to Decrease Your Risk of Falling Following a Brain Injury

Along with ringing in the New Year, January is sure to bring plenty of snow and ice! The onset of slippery conditions can cause an increase in incidences of falls. Though the majority of falls only result in mild injuries such as muscle soreness or bruising, approximately 10% of falls result in a trip to the emergency department. Some falls may be unavoidable, but being informed of the risks and actively making changes can reduce the risk of falling. With 30-65% of people with brain injuries reporting balance deficits at some point during recover, it is especially important for survivors to be aware of the facts that make them more susceptible to falling. Factors to Consider: Are you over 65 years old? Approximately 1 out of 4 people over the age of 65 experience a fall every year, with falls being the leading cause of injuries in this population. Do you take multiple medications? Individual medications or interactions between multiple medications may cause an increase in risk of falling. Researchers have found that certain classes of medications including sedatives and antidepressants may contribute to increased falls risk. If you notice an increase in falls with the start of a new medication, be sure to contact your physician. Have you fallen more than once in the last year? Previous falls are an indicator of an increased likelihood for subsequent falls. If you have previously fallen it is very important to take preventative measures to avoid reoccurring falls. Do you have vision deficits? Vision is an important component of balance, and having vision deficits significantly increase the risk of falls. Blurred vision, double vision, and other visual impairments are common after a brain injury; therefore, it is important to follow up with your optometrist or ophthalmologist if you suspect any changes in your vision. They may make changes to your eye glasses or refer you to an occupational therapist for vision therapy. Do you have impaired sensation in your legs? It is common to experience decreased sensation or proprioception, the perception of movement and positioning of our body, following a brain injury or due to other chronic conditions such as diabetes and peripheral neuropathy. This can cause individuals to trip on objects or lose their balance. Are you depressed? Studies have shown a correlation in increased falls with depression likely due to cognitive, sensory, and motor changes that may occur with brain injuries. Consider talking to your physician, social worker, or counselor if you believe you are experiencing depression. Do you experience dizziness? Dizziness can be a symptom of many conditions including damage to the vestibular system, changes in vision, medication symptoms, or other medical conditions. If you are experiencing dizziness it is advised to consult with your physician. They may refer you to an Ear Nose and Throat Specialist, ophthalmologist or to a vestibular physical therapist depending on the cause. Are you mostly inactive? A decrease in activity can lead to poor cardiovascular endurance and flexibility, as well as weakened muscles, which can increase your risk for falls. Ask your physician if you are able to participate in a regular exercise program, and consider consulting a physical therapist or another expert for a custom exercise program to meet your needs and goals. Do you experience incontinence?Incontinence is associated with an increase in falls due to impulsive and unsafe behavior occurring when a sudden urge to urinate occurs. Depending on the type of incontinence and the severity, different techniques such as utilizing caregiver assistance, bed pans, pads, or Kegels may be appropriate. A pelvic floor specialist can aid with decreasing episodes of incontinence. If you answered yes to any of these questions, you might be at an increased risk for falling. Many brain injury survivors may have answered yes to many of the above questions; because of this, individuals who have experienced a brain injury have a significant increased risk of falling. Although some risk factors such as age are out of our control, many others may be modified to reduce your risk. If you believe you or a loved one is at an increased risk for falling, there are some simple modifications that can be made to decrease the risk:
  • Remove tripping hazards such as rugs or uneven thresholds in your home
  • If you use an assistive device, make sure you are using it correctly
  • Wear supportive shoes with a rubber sole to prevent shuffling feet and slipping.
  • Use night lights in order to increase visibility at night. Alert systems can be used for individuals requiring more assistance.
  • Shovel snow and apply salt to reduce the risk of slippery sidewalks
These tips can reduce your likelihood of falling and incurring an injury. If you have notice any recent changes or have questions regarding your balance, please contact your physician.

Emily Wolf, PT, DPT

Physical Therapist, The Lighthouse Neurological Rehabilitation Center

References

  • Kallin, Kristina, et al. "Predisposing and precipitating factors for falls among older people in residential care." Public health 116.5 (2002): 263-271.
  • Lord, Stephen R., Hylton B. Menz, and Catherine Sherrington. "Home environment risk factors for falls in older people and the efficacy of home modifications." Age and ageing 35.suppl_2 (2006): ii55-ii59.
  • Peterson, Michelle, and Brian D. Greenwald. "Balance problems after traumatic brain injury." Archives of physical medicine and rehabilitation 96.2 (2015): 379-380.
  • Thurman, David J., Judy A. Stevens, and Jaya K. Rao. "Practice parameter: assessing patients in a neurology practice for risk of falls (an evidence-based review): report of the Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology." Neurology 70.6 (2008): 473-479.
  • Woolcott, John C., et al. "Meta-analysis of the impact of 9 medication classes on falls in elderly persons." Archives of internal medicine 169.21 (2009): 1952-1960.

Emily graduated from Arcadia University with a Doctorate of Physical Therapy. Her academic focus was primarily on treatment of adolescents and adults post-concussion. She has been practicing as a physical therapist at The Lighthouse Neurological Rehabilitation Center in Kingsley, Michigan since 2017.

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