Our brains are responsible for who we are and everything we do. From unconscious actions such as breathing and digestion to intentional interactions with the outside world, all of our moods and behaviors stem from that squishy pink organ roughly the size of a medium cauliflower. But what happens when the crown jewel of the human body is injured?
What is an Acquired Brain Injury?
An acquired brain injury (ABI) occurs when a healthy brain sustains damage. The effects are unique and complex; some brain injuries present symptoms for only a few days while others require life-long care.
ABIs can be traumatic or non-traumatic, and their impact varies based on someone’s age, preinjury history, if they have experienced a coma and its duration and depth, and a wide variety of other factors.
Traumatic means an external force such as a car accident or a hard fall was responsible for the injury, as opposed to internal factors like a stroke or lack of oxygen from an overdose.
Signs and symptoms of a brain injury may include:
-Trouble problem solving
-Difficulty making decisions
-Inability to concentrate
-Trouble organizing thoughts
If you or someone you know may be suffering from an ABI, seek professional medical help immediately.
Brain Injury Recovery Process
After sustaining a brain injury, an individual receives immediate acute care at a nearby hospital and is transferred to a different facility for subacute care once their condition allows.
Afterward, an extensive rehabilitation process is often necessary to restore cognitive function to as close to pre-injury levels as possible.
But where does this rehab occur?
In the past, ABI patients would often end up in nursing homes due to a lack of other options, not because nursing homes were ideally suited for their recovery. Thankfully, the landmark Hutchinson v. Patrick lawsuit of 2007 revolutionized brain injury services and led to increased integrated, community-based care.
In a press release announcing the result of the lawsuit, Nickie Chandler spoke about the remarkable growth her partner Ray Puchaslski experienced after transitioning to a community residence from a facility that couldn’t properly treat his brain injury. “In the institution, he was not really living, only breathing.”
Ray now lives in a Western Massachusetts community and is enjoying his best years since the injury. “If anyone could hear the excitement in Ray’s voice, they would have no doubt that his life is full and joyful again,” Nickie continued. “I pray that others will have the opportunity he had to reinvent himself and restart his life in the community.”
Studies have shown that medical and rehabilitative needs can best be met in community settings, which have been demonstrated to improve skills, promote rehabilitative goals, and facilitate independence for people with brain injuries and other severe disabilities.
A prime example of community-focused recovery would be Riverside Community Care’s Longwood House and our 14 other residential homes for people with acquired brain injuries.
Active Treatment in a Community Setting Leads to Powerful Growth
Riverside’s residential homes are organized around the principles of active treatment and community integration to give people with brain injuries the best chance to reach their full recovery potential. The low person-served to staff ratio allows us to work with each client individually to get them involved in their community through daily activities, jobs, and volunteer opportunities.
Riverside’s employees help residents return to work, which many individuals with brain injuries highly associate with recovery. Through the Massachusetts ABI Medicaid Waiver, our clients have increased access to physical, occupational, and speech therapy, all of which help them improve the skills and abilities necessary to rejoin the workforce.
When the people we serve aren’t concentrating on obtaining a job, they can be found receiving mentoring from staff on how to safely develop new skills, participate in the community, and engage in social activities.
Riverside employees navigate the tightrope walk of helping clients while empowering them to grow more self-sufficient, yet ensuring they don’t fail and lose confidence. While an employee at a nursing home might quickly dress a patient and then rush to the next one to meet their busy schedule, we have the time and resources to assist our clients in dressing themselves, cooking, shopping, and many other skill areas.
This increased autonomy extends to all aspects of our residential services. Clients are encouraged to decorate their individual rooms, bond with housemates in shared communal areas, and work toward a more independent living situation. Family visits are easy to coordinate, and individuals have the agency to decide what to eat and where to travel. All our homes have at least one van to drive clients to community outings or medical appointments, where a nurse may accompany them as needed.
Healing remains the most important aspect of Riverside’s brain injury services with three Board-Certified Behavioral Analysts and a talented nursing staff supporting our programs and ensuring all clients receive the care they need and progress appropriately.
Brain Injury Prevention Tips
In the U.S., someone sustains a brain injury every nine seconds, culminating in more than 3.5 million injuries each year. Older adolescents and senior citizens (ages 65 years and older) are among the most likely to receive a traumatic brain injury (TBI).
As the rate of acquired brain injuries continues to trend upward, it’s everyone’s responsibility to help reverse this trajectory.
Follow these tips to best prevent brain injury in yourself or a loved one:
- Falls are the leading cause of all TBIs. Help prevent falls in older adults by accompanying them to yearly eye exams, adding grab bars inside showers, and doing strength/balancing exercises such as Tai Chi together.
- Help prevent young children from falling and sustaining traumatic brain injuries by installing safety gates at the top and bottom of stairs as well as ensuring their playgrounds have shock-absorbing materials underneath them.
- Motor vehicle accidents are another frequent cause of brain injury. Avoid TBIs by buckling up every ride and NEVER driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
- Adults and children should always wear helmets while playing contact sports or riding a bike, ATV, or snowmobile.
Though every ABI is different, most acquired brain injuries are preventable, treatable, and don’t stop the individual from enjoying a fulfilling life.
Brain Injury Resources
- Learn more about Riverside’s Brain Injury Services
- Massachusetts ABI Medicaid Residential Waiver
- Massachusetts ABI Medicaid Non-Residential Waiver
- MA Department of Public Health
- Injury Prevention and Control Program: 617-624-5070
- Injury Surveillance Program: 617-988-3318
- Office of Elder Health: 617-624-5070
- MA Rehabilitation Commission
- Statewide Head Injury Program: 617-204-3600
- MA Brain Injury Association: 508-795-0244
- Brain Injury Information Hotline: 800-242-0300