Brain Injury Rehabilitation

Brain injury rehabilitation draws in a number of stages and employs several members of a team of professionals. Rehabilitation care provides specialized rehabilitation programs and has specific goals which include the following:

  • Stabilize the medical care and issues around rehabilitation for all injuries incurred due to brain injury; 
  • To avoid additional complications beyond the initial injury, such as pneumonia and pressure sores;
  • Restore any functions that were damaged or lost, such as motor skills, speech, and cognitive functions;
  • Utilize adaptive tools and approaches to increase independence;
  • Discuss with the patient and to his family the patient’s conditions as well as the adjustments that they need to make in order to cope with the rehabilitation.

Daily activities in traumatic brain injury rehabilitation generally involve re-learning simple tasks like getting out of bed, brushing teeth, eating meals, and walking. The brain injury rehabilitation team incorporates the following professionals and each of them has a unique area of specialty:

1. Physiatrist – is a physician specializing in physical medicine and rehabilitation. He acts as the team leader and deals with various aspects of rehabilitation such as assessment, prescription of treatment, and directing other members of the team.

2. Neuropsychologist – A neuropsychologist is a licensed psychologist with expertise in how behavior and skills are related to brain structures and systems. Assesses changes in brain injury patient’s behavior and thinking, such as:
  • Speaking challenges
  • Communication dysfunction
  • Being overly impulsive
  • Making poor decisions
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Loss of memory

3. Rehabilitation Nurse – helps patients achieve improved health and adapt to a changed lifestyle post-injury. Rehabilitation nurses begin to work with individuals and their families soon after the onset of a disabling injury. They focus on:
  • Nutrition
  • Pain
  • Sleeping disruption
  • Mobility
  • Bladder and bowel incontinence
  • Self care
  • Communication, comprehension, and cognition
  • Sexual dysfunction

4. Physical Therapist – deals in orthopedic problems, including knee injuries, low back pain, or other pain areas. In traumatic brain injury rehabilitation, the goal of the physical therapist is to lessen as well as surmount any possible paralyzing effects due to the brain injury. The therapist treats musculoskeletal and neuromuscular problems that affect motor skills and assists the patient to be able to function again. The therapist assesses the patient’s:
  • Posture
  • Strength
  • Balance
  • Degree and quality of movement
  • Coordination
  • Pain management
  • Need for support such as cane, brace, or wheelchair

5. Occupational Therapist – determines function and possible problems connected with daily living skills, vision, perception, cognition, and upper extremity movement. The occupational therapist works with the brain injury patient to adapt to typical lifestyle functions like dressing and showering. The therapist also prepares the patient for skills needed when returning home, such as:
  • Grocery shopping
  • Cooking
  • Banking
  • Personal hygiene
  • Returning to work

Rehabilitation is a philosophy of care, not a work setting or a phase of treatment. Every day, traumatic brain injury rehabilitation involves one or more members of the team to help the patient return to as normal a life as possible.