4 Ways the Brain Injury Recovery Process Can Be Made Easier
With over 2.5 million incidences yearly, brain injuries remain one of the most common life-altering health events in the United States. With after-effects ranging from memory gaps to mobility issues, recovery can feel frustratingly slow. But while no miracle cure can fast-track recovery, there are ways to make the process easier:
1. Surround yourself with those you trust
It’s not enough to have a skilled medical team to aid in your recovery. Studies show that patients who trust their doctors are more likely to adhere to medical advice, engage in their health plan, and feel satisfied with their treatments. Aside from that, a good doctor should be someone you can confide in. When you build a healthy working relationship with the medical experts treating you, you’re more likely to find a treatment approach that works for your unique circumstances.
Meanwhile, in terms of your personal life, it helps to maintain your social circle. At first, you may feel discouraged or self-conscious. However, keeping in touch with your close family and friends can alleviate stress, provide inspiration, and help you get back into your “normal” life. For instance, comedian and traumatic brain injury survivor Tracy Morgan, turned to his loved ones to heal. In a more recent ABC interview, Morgan elaborated by saying that rather than stay in bed, he was inspired to “just run your race.” He continued by saying, “That’s what we are here for... You woke up this morning to thank God, and love each other.”
2. Explore physical activities
Recently, neurologists found that rather than prolonging bed rest, getting patients moving is more conducive for the brain’s natural rewiring process. Because neuroplasticity increases after injury, familiar physical experiences (like going for a walk or petting an animal friend) can better stimulate brain recovery. Game of Thrones star Emilia Clarke who survived two traumatic brain injuries and their subsequent surgeries shared that she relied heavily on her parents’ helping her run lines and take walks during her recovery. After months of support and encouragement, Clarke told CNBC that, “In the years since my second surgery I have healed beyond my most unreasonable hopes. I am now at a hundred percent.”
Since no two brain injuries are alike, ask your doctor which of your old pursuits is safe to try. Also, like Clarke, make sure to have somebody with you. This way, you can enjoy the moment without undue stress. If you're not yet ready for more intensive physical activities, try yoga or meditation. These activities utilize slow and purposeful movements rather than high-impact executions. Doctorate research from the University of Connecticut has even shown that these exercises can help reduce fatigue and depression, which usually inhibit traumatic brain recovery.
3. Consider psychiatric support
A study published by Dr. Vani Rao states that there are limited studies that explore the correlation between traumatic brain injury and the development of psychiatric symptoms. This makes it difficult to prescribe psychiatric medications to traumatic brain injury sufferers. Nonetheless, she highlights the need to manage such behavioral or cognitive symptoms.
In another study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), it's said that about one in five patients who suffered a mild traumatic brain injury later manifest symptoms of mental health conditions. Most commonly, these include post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or major depressive disorders. In the long run, this may affect how you interact with your environment and your loved ones, even after your body has more or less recovered. So, to avoid this, ask your primary physician about the mental health resources you can tap. This can include counselors, support groups, or psychiatrists. Being trained professionals, these experts can help you develop coping mechanisms while also helping you process your emotions. With their help, you can navigate what you experienced, plus any changes you’re currently facing.
4. Look into getting healthcare aid
Surveys have shown that those with traumatic brain injury are also more likely to lose their healthcare insurance. This is likely due to a change in employment status, as previously discussed with stroke survivor Kelly Campbell. Hence, it’s vital to explore healthcare providers that provide holistic and flexible coverage, regardless of employment status.
For younger patients, you could approach your state’s Department of Vocation. These government offices offer therapeutic and retraining programs for disabled citizens aged 17 and older. Meanwhile, older adults can sign up for a Medicare Advantage plan. As KelseyCare Advantage explains, Medicare Advantage covers all the inclusions of the original Medicare, and patients are also privy to all supplemental benefits. This includes in-patient and outpatient services, rehab programs, and medication. With consistent access to healthcare resources, you can complete your recovery programs and improve your health. To further streamline your medical correspondence, you can also benefit from a tool like the Power of Patients app. Since the app can help you document your unique TBI experience, you can easily and accurately note your symptoms and treatment options for you, your caregiver, and your medical team. Doing so not only empowers you but also others who are trying to further the treatment of those with brain injuries.
Recovering from a traumatic brain injury requires patience and consistency. Though it can feel alienating and frustrating most days, some methods can make the process more pleasant and positive. For more on brain injury, recovery, and stories of hope, please check the Power Of Patients blog.