Do you know the leading cause of death and injury to young Canadians under the age of 40? You’ll be surprised to learn that nearly 1.5 million Canadians live with the effects of acquired brain injury. In order to raise awareness of traumatic brain injury and to elicit a community response at making changes for the better, June has been designated as brain injury awareness month in Canada. Brain Injury Canada invites everyone to better understand what a traumatic brain injury is, how the recovery process impacts family and friends, and how to support those suffering from this injury.
What Is a Traumatic Brain Injury?
A traumatic brain injury (TBI) is an injury to the brain that occurs after suffering a trauma. There are two types, a closed injury in which the brain was injured due to a forceful blow to the skull, and a penetrating injury in which an object entered the skull and damaged brain tissue. A TBI can consist of several damaged areas in the brain or a single area; in which case, the damage will be either diffuse or focal.
What Are the Symptoms of a TBI?
Symptoms can range from mild to severe and manifest themselves by a dysfunction in the neurological system. According to the Saskatchewan Brain Injury Association, some symptoms include:
- Loss of consciousness
- Mood changes
- Memory loss or inability to concentrate
- Slurred speech
- Weakness or numbness in the extremities
- Loss of coordination
These symptoms will vary in individuals, depending on the level of severity and their age. For instance, young children will exhibit some of the symptoms previously listed, in addition to persistent crying or refusal to eat.
What Are the Leading Causes of Brain Injury?
According to the Brain Injury Association of Durham, the highest numbers for brain injuries are a result of an injury sustained during an automobile accident.
Statistics Canada reported that in 2015, there were 72,039 impaired driving incidents of which 596 caused bodily harm. The Government of Canada also reports that there has been a sharp increase in the number of accidents involving a distracted driver. In 2016, 27% of all accidents resulting in serious bodily injury were caused by a driver being distracted.
How to Manage a Traumatic Brain Injury
Depending on the severity of the traumatic brain injury sustained, the medical care and equipment needed could be either temporary or long-term. Some items that could facilitate the rehabilitation process or management of disability include:
- Wheelchairs. With the guidance of your medical team, you can choose the right wheelchair to serve your needs. Possible options include manual versus power chair with adjustable head and foot supports. There is a variety of wheelchair accessories that will add comfort and protect skin integrity, such as fleece seat and armrest covers. A padded seat cushion is also very important for preventing sores from developing over an extended time period in a wheelchair.
- Walkers and Rollators. As your mobility level increases, it may be recommended by a therapist to use either a rolling walker or a standard walker. Rolling walkers—called rollators—have swivel wheels, making them easier to manoeuvre. If you lack strength in your arms, it’s best to use a rollator since it’s doesn’t need to be lifted as you move, compared to a walker. Many walker and rollator accessories have been produced to further facilitate their use, such as fleece walker grips, cup and phone holders, baskets, and glides.
- Patient Alarms and Emergency Communication System. Since preventing future falls is of paramount importance, alarms and monitoring systems can give you the peace of mind that your loved one is safe if they should become confused, fall out of bed, or leave their wheelchair.
How to be a Good Family Caregiver
- We often think we’ll take care of family members only when they’re much older, but anyone can suffer a traumatic brain injury at any age. When you unexpectedly become a family caregiver, there are some essential tasks you should do to provide the best care.
- Make sure you get all the details about your family member’s situation. It’s important to fully understand traumatic brain injuries and the recovery process, but personalizing your care will lead to positive results.
- Get in touch with other caregivers. If you’re worried about becoming a caregiver, you can receive and give support to get a better handle on your new role.
- Listen to your family member’s doctors or specialists, but remember that not all of their advice will apply. Your family member has their preferences.
- Caregiving does not mean removing your family member’s independence. Being a caregiver also means providing technologies and strategies that will answer their needs.
- Take your limits into consideration, and work with your family member’s medical professionals and other individuals, so everyone is on the same page.
How Can You Get Involved During Brain Injury Awareness Month?
Every year, the Brain Care Centre in Alberta hosts a Brain Injury Awareness Month (BIAM) Kick-Off Breakfast in June, featuring keynote speakers who discuss acquired brain injuries in connection with homelessness, addiction, and other aspects. Guests must purchase tickets for only the breakfast or conference, or they may opt for both events.
This coming August 15th, the Brain Care Centre will be hosting a Brain Matters Charity Golf Tournament from 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Northern Bear Golf Course in Sherwood Park. The event offers breakfast and lunch, 18 holes of golf, awards, prizes, and two actions. Tickets are still available for purchase.
To see how you can get involved in raising awareness for brain injuries in Canada this June, reach out to your local brain injury associations within your province. There are countless activities throughout the country!
If you or a loved one is dealing with a brain injury, we are committed to supporting you. Healthcare Solutions provides a wide range of products that maintain and enhance your quality of life, in addition to offering compassionate and knowledgeable customer service. Please contact us about the mobility products that we carry at our Edmonton location, or shop online.