Taking Care of Brain Injured Patients

Many brain injured people survive their injuries and most suffer from permanent brain damage to varying degrees. These people may need to be treated in a nursing home for the rest of their lives. They may also need to be on medication to control seizures and/or spasticity as well as medications for psychological and mood problems. Those that don’t live in a nursing home must reside in a group home for the mentally disabled or must live at home, being cared for by family until the family can no longer care for the individual.

Caring for an individual with a traumatic brain injury can be difficult. They may need help with feeding, toileting, dressing and ambulation. They often suffer from speech and vision problems and most likely will suffer from mood and aggression problems. It is sometimes a twenty-four hour a day job to take care of a traumatic brain injury patient. Sometimes a home health aide may be needed to give the family caregivers a break.

These people with acquired brain injuries struggle for the rest of their life with serious health challenges. Besides the trauma related to their brain, they have other traumatic injuries, not all of which actually heal completely. Many have been involved in serious falls or in motor vehicle accidents in which they have sustained multiple injuries. They may not be ambulating normally and may need a wheelchair. They often appear to age prematurely when compared to those who don’t have a traumatic brain injury and have health problems that are usually confined to the elderly.

People with traumatic brain injury need physical therapy and occupational therapy as well as speech therapy to get back what can be achieved through this kind of help. They may learn how to ambulate with a cane, crutch or walker. They may learn how to dress themselves or take care of their physical appearance. They may need help learning how to toilet again independently. Feeding by themselves is another goal that can be attained through rehabilitation therapy. Speech therapy can be used in those with garbled speech or with Broca’s aphasia to help them learn to form words that are intelligible.

Rehabilitation specialists are increasingly a part of the care of patients with traumatic brain injury. Their stay in the hospital is likely to be shorter than in years past and there will be medical issues the physical therapist will have to work around, such as seizures or other physical injuries. More and more people are surviving severe brain traumas, which puts an added burden on the physical therapist and occupational therapist. The life expectancy of brain injured people can be near normal if treated well in the beginning. This can mean years of rehabilitation and years of some kind of supportive care.

Rehabilitation nurses are often in the position to best handle the overall management of the care of these patients, some of whom need coordination of care, early intervention and education of both the patient and his or her family and caregivers. These nurses must deal with acute and chronic issues like evolving mobility, aspiration issues, spasticity, incontinence, chronic pain and diabetes. The nurses must deal with issues of aging, nutrition and weight control in these patients that usually need a lot of help in many body areas.