The extent to which a person recovers after experiencing a brain injury is partially down to the severity of the injury and what parts of the brain are affected, but is also strongly influenced by what sort of rehabilitation care they receive.
Many brain injury patients can make a full recovery with the right treatment and rehabilitation, while even those who are likely to be left with some lasting effects can usually achieve a much better outcome if the right steps are taken.
The goals of brain injury rehabilitation
There are two main goals when someone suffers a brain injury:
- Recovering as much physical and mental function as possible.
- Learning to adapt to any lasting consequences so the patient can live as independently and happily as possible.
The first will usually be achieved by physical therapy and cognitive exercises, designed to encourage the brain to ‘rewire’ itself i.e. to develop new neural pathways that bypass the damaged parts of the brain. This can allow different areas to take over the functions of the damaged brain cells and, depending on the type and severity of the damage, may allow a complete or partial recovery.
The importance of patience when dealing with a brain injury
One thing any brain injury patients and their loved ones find frustrating in the early days of recovery is that it can be very hard to predict at that point how much or how quickly a patient will recover.
It can often take up to around 6 months after the injury occurs before doctors can start to be more confident exactly what the likely outcome and time frame for recovery will be.
Many brain injury patients will continue to experience significant improvements in both their cognitive and physical abilities for up to 2 years after the injury occurs and it is common for people to continue recovering lost function for many years afterwards.
It is therefore essential to stay patient in the months after a brain injury as it can be easy to become frustrated and lose faith in the recovery process, which can then have a negative impact on your long-term prognosis.
5 key tips for getting the most out of brain injury rehabilitation
The following are some key things to bear in mind when working with brain injury rehabilitation services to help you get the most from the experience.
- Try to create structure and routine wherever possible as this can make it easier to cope with any issues with memory or general cognitive function.
- Stay on top of diet, exercise and sleep as this can help you maintain a positive mental state.
- Avoid overtaxing yourself. It can be tempting to keep pushing yourself to improve, but overtaxing yourself is likely to have a negative effect rather helping.
- Make sure you have a strong support network of family and friends in place as this practical and emotional support can be invaluable for your recovery.
- Manage your expectations as it is easy to become frustrated with yourself if you aren’t progressing as fast as you would like to, and this is likely to be counterproductive if it leads to you becoming discouraged.
Making sure you get the support you need
Someone who experiences a brain injury is likely to need a combination of medical care, physical therapy, cognitive therapy, emotional support and care support. They may also need to make adaptations to their home, buy specialist equipment and take time off or give up work.
All of these can have a serious financial impact and making sure you have the money available to fund the help and support you need can make a big difference to your recovery and quality of life.
If the brain injury was not your fault, you may be able to get brain injury compensation to help cover some of these costs. A specialist brain injury solicitor will be able to help you assess whether you are likely to be able to pursue a claim and assist you in doing so where appropriate.