Medical Brain Injury - What Help is Available29th Jan 2018
Sustaining any form of serious medical brain injury brings with it a great deal of change and quite often a number of challenges.
Whether the injury results in a physical disability or a cognitive impairment the individual and their family have to change how they live their lives. Everything becomes an elaborate – yet finely balanced – orchestration, centred on making sure the individual is getting the support they need.
Depending on the kind of medical brain injury and the parts of the brain affected the level of support, professional input, adaptations to the home and accommodation for social interactions will all need to be taken in to account. This is to ensure that both the injured party and their family have as normal a life as possible.
What Help is Available?
The type of injury – anoxic brain injury (where the brain is starved of oxygen) or a contusion, for example – will often bring with it a distinct set of side effects. Anoxic brain injuries more commonly affect speech, vision and memory, for example and so the nature of support will be very different than if the individual sustained a contusion to the motor centres of the brain.
However the individual has been affected by the injury, knowing who can help you is essential to everyone’s quality of life.
Aids and Adaptations
If the injured party has developed a physical disability or limitations then the home may require adaptations. Adaptations can be anything from grab rails in the bathroom to an elevator that goes from the bedroom to the room below.
Technology has made it possible for individuals with severe physical challenges to be able to get about their home with relative ease. This takes a tremendous amount of pressure off the family but more importantly it helps the individual to retain some degree of independence.
Depending on the nature of the side effects the individual may have physical impairments such as partial paralysis, weakened limbs, diminished co-ordination or motor function, loss of language or loss of speech.
Or all of the above.
Unfortunately, a brain injury can cause widespread damage which impacts on every part of the individual. As such the individual may need support from physios and speech and language therapists in order to regain their ability to move and communicate without help.
Of course some damage is too extensive to ever truly recover from, and as such these professionals will be able to support the individual with learning new ways to cope with day-to-day life. This could be teaching them how to navigate the home with a wheelchair or effective methods of non-verbal communication in the case of permanent loss of speech.
Any kind of trauma in life can impact on an individual’s mental health. Considering 1 in 4 people can be affected by mental health issues at some point every year in the UK, it’s entirely understandable for someone who has sustained a brain injury to have some challenges.
Mental health issues can manifest in a number of different ways including depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. It’s impossible to say definitively whether or not someone with a medical brain injury will develop mental health issues. However, if the injury has affected personality, reasoning and other cognitive aspects then there is a strong possibility.
Fortunately there are a wide variety of mental health providers – both NHS and private – that can support someone going through a difficult time. A simple assessment will determine how severe those difficulties are then a course of treatment will be recommended. This could be something like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy or working with a psychologist.
One of the biggest impacts of a severe brain injury can be the loss of independence. Whether or not the injured party has suffered a physical or cognitive impairment (or both), their ability to live their lives as they did before can be significantly restricted without support.
If they can no longer drive then visiting friends or going to a social hub like a pub or restaurant becomes a challenge. If the cognitive parts of the brain have been severely damaged then the usual forms of social interaction are no longer appropriate.
Whatever the circumstances there are services available to help. Specialist bus and taxi services exist to help individuals with physical disabilities to get to where they want to go.
There are also various drop-in centres and support groups to help individuals with cognitive challenges or PTSD to make friends, socialise, and talk about and work through their experiences.
This kind of structured socialising isn’t going to be a good fit for everyone but it’s important to know it’s there.
Care for Carers
Although making sure the injured party is well supported with the things they need to lead the life they choose, it’s equally important to make sure the family is supported too. After all, if the family is exhausted then they won’t be able to take care of their loved one.
But worse than that, resentment can set in and the family itself can breakdown.
There’s a number of ways to ensure that carers are being cared for:
- Financial Support
If the family is on a reduced income then paying debts such as loans or the mortgage can be difficult. Your creditors may be willing to agree to payment holidays or similar in order to give you some time to recover. However, it’s worth getting legal advice before committing to anything.
Caring for someone full-time is work. Even though you’re motivated by love rather than a pay slip at the end of the month, it doesn’t make it any easier or any less tiring.
Arranging for respite – either having a carer stay with the individual or they go into a residential setting – allows the family to take a needed break.
In some cases it’s possible to pay for a carer to join the family on holiday so the family as a whole can focus on having fun. This provision, however, does not come cheap.
- Mental Health
Although not directly affected by the injury, the family will have gone through a trauma of its own. A spouse will have to adjust to complete change of dynamic with their partner.
It may be difficult for young children to reconcile that their mother or father can no long play with them, or perhaps seem like a totally different person. It is not easy.
- Social Life
Maintaining friendship circles and social activities is important. It may require leaning on your support circle – friends and family – quite heavily in order to do so, but without those doses of normality life can feel little more than a repetition of processes.
- Staying Healthy
A busy life caring for a family member, working and trying to make time for them doesn’t always leave a carer with much time to eat healthily or stay active.
However, quick meals don’t have to be unhealthy. Finding recipes that are easy to buy for, quick to cook and healthy can make a positive impact. Combined with setting some time aside for exercise – even if it’s a fitness DVD before bed – all contributes to long term wellbeing.
Of course all of these things cost time and money. If not a direct cost – as the NHS and social services provide a great deal for free – then the cost in loss of earnings through reduced hours or loss of employment entirely.
This reduced income can put a tremendous strain on family finances. Even if drop-in centres, CBT and other services are provided for free, those things are provided to anyone who has sustained a brain injury, and they don’t save money per se.
They don’t represent any form of compensation and they don’t put food on the table or keep the lights on.
There is also a personal cost to all of this. Aside from the injured party’s aspirations for their life being cut short, there is a tremendous cost to the family.
The change in circumstances between spouses can cause irrevocable damage to their relationship. Children can be denied precious memories with their parents or lose a parent altogether in some cases.
The fallout of a medical brain injury isn’t just measured in pounds and pence, but there is no escaping both the loss of income and the increased cost now attached to leading a normal life.
Help is at Hand
If you or a family member has suffered a brain injury as a result of medical negligence then you may be entitled to compensation.
It’s important to state that this isn’t the case for all instances of medical brain injury. A specialist medical negligence solicitor will quickly be able to tell you whether or not your case is strong enough to take to court.
They will also outline the process and advise you what you need to do in order to give you the best chance of success.
A legal claim is not something to be taken lightly, but if there is a responsible party whose actions directly contributed to the circumstances you now find yourself in then you deserve the compensation required for the support you and your family now require.