Starting in April 2020, members of the ERPi Senior Service Team and staff members will write monthly blogs focused on Diversity and Inclusion awareness and education as it relates to our company, society, and our day-to-day life. April’s post focuses on Brain Injury Awareness Month, which occurs every March and is a great time to have important conversations about traumatic brain injury (TBI): what it is, signs and symptoms, and how to promote strategies to improve quality of life for persons living with TBI and their families. An estimated 10 million people worldwide experience a TBI annually and the World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that TBI will lead as the major cause of death and disability by 2020.
There has been a heightened focus on TBI due to the increased number of service members experiencing TBI during active duty as well as after transitioning out of the military. TBI is reported as the signature injury of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation New Dawn with over 383,947 injuries between 2000 and 2018 (DVBIC, 2020). Many of these brain injuries were sustained via blast, a complex mechanism different than most non-military sustained brain injuries.
Symptoms of brain injury include difficulty with memory, attention, problem solving, word finding, executive functioning, mobility/balance, visual impairment, headache, and insomnia. While there are medications available to help lessen symptoms, it is important that the medications a brain injury survivor is taking are closely monitored in order to not exacerbate symptoms or cause additional symptoms. There are also a variety of rehabilitation options for survivors of brain injury including occupational therapy, speech language pathology, and vocational therapy.
Each brain injury is unique. Some survivors who were once very personable, choose not to engage in social activities such as crowded events, reaching out to family and friends regularly, or simply something as routine as running errands. Psychological challenges may be coupled with the injury leading to frustration with oneself at not being able to complete the simplest tasks or recall a memory or thought. Survivors are usually very aware that they can no longer recall or process information the way they did prior to the injury, creating additional frustration and pressure on themselves. Other survivors may not return to work, while some may attempt to return but find themselves unable to function at their preinjury level. Occupational therapy, speech pathology, and vocational therapy offered by VA can help Veterans learn to adapt, improve function, and compensate to achieve their overall personal, professional, and functional goals.
When a spouse, parent or other family member is supporting the survivor by caregiving, there can be pressure to quickly adapt while managing household and family responsibilities. Caregivers are often looked at for answers and help in what quickly becomes very foreign and confusing circumstances for everyone involved. Navigating the process takes time and patience on both parties for any improvement to occur and it is important that caregivers, in addition to the survivor of TBI, receive support and respite services.
ERPi’s Diversity and Inclusion Initiative works to improve organizational trust through accountability and consistent inclusive behaviors and programs. Part of these behaviors include embracing those who are differently abled. We hope this inaugural blog provides some education, insight, and awareness into those surviving brain injuries and caregiver.
Stacey Donald, Vice President
Erin Mattingly, Senior Manager
Marjorie Thomas, Senior Consultant