- Riona Gill
Let's talk about Brain Injury
Brain injury can be termed as an Acquired Brain Injury and a Traumatic Brain Injury. Acquired brain injury is defined by the Brain Injury Association of America as ‘ An injury to the brain that is not hereditary, congenital, degenerative, or induced by birth trauma. A traumatic brain injury is defined as ‘an alteration in brain function, or other evidence of brain pathology, caused by an external force’. In Ireland alone it is estimated that 19,000 people a year sustain a brain injury. Unfortunately this number is only an estimate as there are no exact figures available.
Sustaining a brain injury can have a significant impact on a person's life. Affecting cognitive and physical abilities, relationships, career and overall independence. Things we may have taken for granted before the brain injury can become difficult challenges to overcome.
Our brain is made up of billions of neurons. When an injury occurs these neurons can break or tear. Depending on the area where this has occurred certain cognitive functions can be affected. Some of the most common long term side effects of brain injury include fatigue, memory problems, ability to sequence tasks, orientation to time and place and general activities of daily living. An individual's emotional well-being may also be affected leading to loss of confidence, anxiety and depression.
Once the individual has received medical treatment it is often when they return home that problems are encountered reintegrating back into normal life. The family and individual themselves may look the same but due to the brain injury is behaving differently. The individual themselves may not even be aware of this. At this stage families can oftentimes be at a loss about how to help their loved one.
Studies have shown that recovery from brain injury happens most rapidly between eighteen months to two years after the injury occurred. Due to neuroplasticity it is possible for the brain to form new neural connections in order to compensate for the injury. This is where the term ‘Neurons that fire together, wire together’ comes from and studies have shown that behaviour and rehabilitation have a direct link to neuroplasticity following a brain injury.
Recovery from a brain injury can be challenging and it takes courage and strength to face those challenges everyday. With the right support and understanding how your brain injury is affecting you specifically, having a good quality of life with a brain injury is possible.