The True Impact of Brain Injuries1st Feb 2018
Any major injury can be life-altering.
Depending on the nature of the injury an individual could have a permanent disability or may need months (or even years) of rehabilitation before they can get back to something like normal life.
If the individual loses a limb or experiences paralysis, ‘normal’ may only ever be a matter of degree. Fortunately, there are services and technology – including cutting-edge prosthetics – that allow the people they help to edge ever closer to the life they lost.
But what about a serious brain injury?
It comes as no surprise that a brain injury can have a wide range of side effects entirely dependent on the area of the brain that was damaged and the severity of that damage.
As such the impact can manifest itself in a number of different ways:
Assuming the individual wasn’t in a coma, or was fully recovered, there are still a number of other cognitive effects including memory loss, language loss, visual/perceptual impairments, reduced concentration, reduced problem solving and information processing ability, and even impaired reasoning.
In real world terms the person can become isolated from their family and friends as they become difficult to communicate with on almost all levels, as they have a diminished capacity for understanding – and interacting with – the world around them.
In short, a serious brain injury can completely change a person’s personality and make them reliant on others when carrying out day to day tasks.
For many a brain injury is synonymous with paralysis or a vegetative state. However, as with the cognitive effects, there can be a variety of physical challenges caused by a brain injury.
Mobility difficulties and reduced range of movement (spasticity) can be common. The individual can become slower or their limbs feel weak or stiff. They can also experience a limited range of movement despite no physical impairment. Fatigue is also highly common with brain injuries and often exacerbated by difficulties around mobility.
Balance and co-ordination can also be a problem requiring support with day to day tasks such as bathing and dressing.
A brain injury can also cause epilepsy to manifest. This is usually treatable with medication but requires certain changes in lifestyle to minimise the chances of seizures. A possible side effect of the medication can be similar to that of anti-depressants, levelling off the personality and making it difficult for them to feel motivated to do anything.
Assuming there was absolutely no lasting damage to an individual’s brain, a brain injury by its very nature, is still a distressing experience. As such one would and should expect a degree of emotional impact or personality change.
However, the reality is that brain injuries almost always cause emotional side effects because who we are is so interwoven with the mind.
The emotional effects may not seem all that obvious at first. The physical and cognitive effects will – initially – hide the emotional aspect and our own compassion will likely excuse some behaviour.
In reality, personality changes – some of which can be significant – are common. For some it can be a lot like going through the stages of loss and grief, and most of their original personality will resurface over time.
For others there is a clearly defined personality shift which could manifest as a heightened sense of anxiety or risk aversion or even a complete reinvention – for want of a better term. Families of individuals affected by brain injuries can feel like their loved one has slipped away and been replaced with someone else entirely.
In addition to these challenges the individual can also experience mood swings, depression or even post-traumatic stress disorder.
Much like the cognitive and physical effects, the emotional ones are far-reaching, severe and in many cases irreversible.
The Real World Effect
All of these factors create a ripple effect that impacts on almost every part of the person’s life. The injured party has a great deal to contend with, much of which will be a lifelong challenge. It could mean that their employment is at risk or even ruled out entirely, or relationship difficulties, for example.
In the UK roughly 1.3 million people live with the consequences of traumatic brain injury costing the economy £15 billion a year through lost work contributions, premature death and health/social care costs.
Although the NHS and social services can provide considerable support at no cost to the individual, if the injured party happens to be the primary wage earner in the family then this can have dire consequences. The NHS sadly cannot put food on the table or keep the lights on.
Assuming the family is able to make ends meet they also have to cope with the fact that the person they knew has undergone a dramatic transformation which will likely mean ongoing care, adaptations to the home and potentially lifelong support from external agencies.
All of this comes at a cost be it financial, emotional or time. Or all three. As such you need to ensure that your family is protected from the fallout and, where there is a responsible party, reparations made.
If a member of your family has had their life irrevocably changed by a brain injury that wasn’t their fault we may be able to help you get the compensation you deserve.