Long-Term Care After a TBI

Coming in at an average of just 3 pounds, the human brain holds some of the most wide-ranging and complex responsibilities in the body. To name a few, it plays a huge role in: 

  • behavior
  • emotion and impulse regulation
  • decision making
  • problem solving
  • human development
  • learning
  • sensations
  • reasoning/ analyzing
  • regulation of body system functioning
  • coordination of movement
  • language
  • short and long-term memory

Though it is one of the most widely studied organs in the body, its inner workings also remain the most mysterious to us. As you can imagine, any traumatic force to the head can result in injuries as complex as the brain itself. With a head trauma it is most common for the neurons to be damaged, which makes it difficult for the brain to send messages to other parts of the brain and the rest of the body. Depending on the type and severity of the injury, this degradation of communication can have a wide-ranging impact on the duration and extent of the effect on the body.

Living with TBIs

According to the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), an estimated 2.5 million people sustain a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) annually with a high percentage of those cases being treated and released from the hospital. It is estimated that as much as 2% of the population (5.3 million Americans), currently lives with disabilities related to a brain injury, according to the National Center on Caregiving. While many families are waiting until the late years of their loved ones lives to think about long-term care, a medical event such as a TBI can catapult families into the world of healthcare and long-term care needs. Many are left with questions of how to rebuild life and what care and support will be needed.   

Causes of TBIs

The most at risk to suffer a TBI are the youngest (0-4) and oldest (75+) within the population. This is due in part because the leading cause of TBIs is a fall. In fact, the CDC saw an increase in fall-related TBIs among adults aged 65+ even just between the years 2002-2006. Looking at the percentages provided by the CDC, the most common external causes of TBIs include:

  • Falls 35.2%
  • Motor Vehicle-Traffic Accidents 17.3%
  • Struck By/Against 16.5%
  • Assaults 10%

TBI & Long-Term Care

While a brain injury is physically, mentally, and emotionally traumatic for both injured individuals and their family, there is life after trauma. One of the most important aspects of rebuilding life is finding the right guidance through the transition, care in the everyday, and help maintaining safety and a quality of life. Regardless of whether it was the result of a fall, a collision, or a work accident, a brain injury introduces a tremendous amount of uncertainty. Families are asking: What will life look like now? Can they go back to work? What will be the long-term impact? What care needs will there be? What will the healthcare costs look like?

Transitional Care

For mild and moderate cases of TBIs, the transition home from the hospital can often be one of the most challenging  and critical times for a families. The contrast between what life used to be like and life after the trauma can be felt most intensely in the home. Activities of daily life such as making a meal or doing housework can present new challenges. Families may also see significant changes in behaviors and personality in their loved one as well as their abilities. These complications can become compounded by the increased management of healthcare appointments and medications. In those first few weeks home, in-home caregivers can help families adapt to daily life and make the home environment a safe place where they are supported in daily activities. While care may not be needed indefinitely, having professional support in the home during the transition can be a vital relief to family and provide them the space to be present to their loved one, plan for recovery, and restructure life.

Long-Term Care & Life Care Plans

In cases where a loved one sustains a severe TBI, families are often tasked with not just restructuring life, but reinventing new lives entirely. Long-term care to assist with daily activities of living may be required for the rest of their life. Family are often the first to step in and assume the role of caregiver when a loved one sustains a TBI, but depending on the severity of the injury, it may be beyond the capacity of a loved one to provide the needed attention and scope of care on an on-going basis.  The question of paying for professional long-term care needs can be a legal question as much as a financial one in cases of a work or automotive accident. A life care plan can be a crucial part of estimating care and costs for the future and in any legal proceedings regarding compensation. The International Academy of Life Care Planners defines a Life Care Plan as, “a dynamic document based upon published standards of practice, comprehensive assessment, data analysis and research, which provides an organized, concise plan for current and future needs with associated costs for individuals who have experienced catastrophic injury or have chronic health care needs.”

Sound Options & TBIs | Case Study

While we tend to think of aging adults as the ones needing long-term care, advocacy, and on-going care management, a vulnerable adult with a TBI suddenly has an increase in the complexity of their healthcare and decreased resources to organize, understand, and cope with the changes. This is where our Professional Care Management services can really make an impact in guiding and getting the right care.

One of our clients, who we’ll call “John”, was just a young man when he was beaten up and sustained a traumatic brain injury. Though in his mid-thirties, he has the brain of about a 13 year-old. John lived with a perpetual fear of having physical problems and would go to the ER a few times a month constantly seeking healthcare. Because of the nature of the injury he was also prone to lack of judgment and impulsive behavior causing him to move from state to state and marry repeatedly. The Care Manager from Sound Options recognized both his need to feel independent and his need for a circle of safety and support. They drafted a list of individuals who are advocates that he can contact whenever he had anxiety, or a health concern. By building a relationship of trust and taking a holistic approach to on-going care management they were able to deescalate his anxiety, help educate him on the changes in his brain and body, and stabilize his behavior and living environment.

March is Brain Injury Awareness Month and the 2015 theme is Not Alone. If your loved one is coping with a TBI or other life changing medical crisis like a stroke, or Alzheimer’s disease, you have Sound Options on your side. Our comprehensive In-Home Care and Care Management services make sure you’re not alone in making care decisions, finding transitional care, coordinating and overseeing care, understanding the scope and recovery process of the injury, advocating for your loved one and more. Our team is with you every step of the way. Give us a call today at 800.628.7649.  

Published on February 25, 2015.