Sustaining any kind of brain injury is a traumatic time in a person’s life. Rehabilitation is an essential step in the recovery process and begins as soon as the person is able to start. Each program is tailored to you based on your injury.
Understanding Brain Injury
A brain injury can happen for many reasons. Trauma such as a car accident or a fall can cause it, or it may come from a tumor or hemorrhage. Stroke and neurodegenerative diseases – such as dementia – damage the brain and can cause similar symptoms to a traumatic injury.
No matter the type of injury sustained, it affects nearly everyone differently.
The effects of the injury can be spread across the brain (called diffuse) or localized to one part of the brain (called focal). The type of injury determines what symptoms you may experience and what long-term symptoms you may feel.
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Health Issues Associated with Brain Injuries
Some problems related to brain injury include:
- Trouble thinking.
- Difficulty communicating.
- Memory problems.
- Agitation or restlessness.
- Personality changes.
- Difficulty caring for yourself or doing daily activities.
- Trouble walking due to weakness, poor balance, or both.
Rehabilitation for Brain Injury
An inpatient brain injury rehabilitation program is a specialized, hospital-based program for individuals who have significant medical needs in addition to their functional problems. The goals of rehabilitation include:
- Restoring your health.
- Helping you overcome or compensate for these challenges.
- Helping you relearn abilities the injury affected.
- Helping you be as independent as possible in your transition out of the hospital.
During your stay at the UPMC Rehabilitation Institute, you and your family or caregivers will work with an integrated patient care team. The team includes rehabilitation physicians, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists, and nurses.
Your rehab team will go over your recovery goals and make a care plan that considers your individual needs. You’ll have a daily therapy schedule to follow. Every moment you have while in rehab is a therapeutic opportunity. During your inpatient stay, rehabilitation will occur 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This includes:
- Scheduled therapy sessions.
- After-hours activity groups.
- Interactions between staff and family members throughout your day.
You’ll have intensive therapy for at least five days a week. Therapy includes different kinds of activities, with different kinds of therapists. Some therapies you may receive during your rehabilitation for brain injury include:
- Physical therapy– to build strength, balance, and coordination.
- Occupational therapy– to relearn or build up your ability to perform daily activities, including getting dressed, walking, and bathing.
- Speech-language pathology– to aid with communication and eating difficulties, such as trouble finding words or understanding words, speaking, thinking, and swallowing.
- Neuropsychology– to evaluate personality or behavior changes and develop strategies to adapt.
Physiatrists (rehabilitation physicians), nurses, social workers, and case managers are also vital parts of your care team. They are responsible for handling your medical care, helping coordinate insurance, and aiding your transition from the hospital back home or to another level of care.
Relearning Skills in Brain Injury Rehab
Brain injury may cause you to lose skills you need for independent living. Rehabilitation for a brain injury usually focuses around relearning those life skills. Education begins on the first day of rehabilitation and continues throughout the process.
Daily life skills rehab can help you relearn:
- Activities of daily living (ADL), including dressing, grooming, bathing, and feeding yourself.
- Instrumental activities of daily living (IADL). These include managing money, paying bills, writing checks, cooking, managing medications, doing household chores, riding the bus, and more.
- Walking, sitting, and standing balance.
- Using a wheelchair if needed, including going up ramps.
- Transferring onto and from a bed, toilet, tub, shower, chair, or sofa.
- Getting in and out of a car.
- Getting up and down stairs.
- Moving around safely outdoors.
- Communication skills, such as understanding what others are saying and communicating your needs.
- Reading and writing.
- Speaking and forming words.
- Getting back to doing things you enjoy.
Family Involvement During Brain Injury Rehabilitation
Family participation is vital for brain injury patients to get the full benefits of rehabilitation. Rehabilitation programs typically encourage family members to come to the hospital on a regular basis — not just to visit — but to learn about brain injury. This way, they can take an active role in treatment.
- Keeps family members informed of the patient’s progress.
- Educates the family on how to safely and effectively help with everyday tasks.
- Makes the patient’s transition to the next phase of rehabilitation proceed more smoothly.
Brain injury rehabilitation usually starts as an inpatient program and then moves to outpatient or a nursing home as your condition requires. How long you can expect to stay in rehab will depend on the severity of your brain injury. Your medical team works closely with you and your family members or caregivers to provide you with excellent care and improve your abilities as much as possible.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .
The UPMC Rehabilitation Institute offers inpatient, outpatient, and transitional rehabilitation, as well as outpatient physician services so that care is available to meet the needs of our patients at each phase of the recovery process. Renowned physiatrists from the University of Pittsburgh Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, as well as highly trained physical, occupational, and speech therapists, provide individualized care in 12 inpatient units within acute care hospitals and over 80 outpatient locations close to home and work.