Posted by Kathryn Battrum on May 21, 2021
Carly Suddard, Marketing and Events Coordinator, at Brain Trust Canada, spoke to us on May 20 about Acquired Brain Injury or ABI.
Concussion is the most common form of brain injury which results from motor vehicle accidents, strokes, falls, intimate partner violence, and sports.  ABI has devastating impacts on physical, mental, and cognitive health and personal mobility:
  • 1 in 4 marriages break down after ABI.
  • 53% of homeless live with ABI, usually acquired after becoming homeless.
  • Those with ABI are 2.5x more likely to become incarcerated than those without it.
  • Those with concussion are 3x more likely to become victims of suicide.
The Impacts of ABI are like an iceberg:  the top part is physical changes that are obvious and visible; the changes under water are harder to see:  emotional and cognitive.
Physical changes include:
  • loss of motor skills like walking, sitting, balancing, moving – hemi, para or quadriplegia; slurred speech, chronic pain, headaches, fatigue, insomnia, temperature regulation issues, inability to sweat or regulate heart rate, excess saliva, drooling, inability to recognize hunger.
  • Social changes include changes in roles – from caregiver to receiving care (parent being looked after by child); difficulty reading social cues, trouble with work and social relationships, poor coping skills, loss of independence, loss of privacy, isolation.
  • Emotional changes are less obvious and include rapid, exaggerated changes in mood; short fuse, mood disorders, depression, PTSD, emotional/behavioral outbursts, easily frustrated, loss of sense of self; sadness, grief, addiction issues.
  • Cognitive changes are the hardest to recognize – difficulty planning scheduling, sequencing tasks; more time needed to process info; lack of focus and attention; poor memory, confusion, difficulty expressing thoughts, understanding conversations, difficulty with judgment and decision-making, perseveration, impulsivity – acting before thinking, disinhibition, hyper sexuality.
Brain Trust Canada provides programs to alleviate some of these difficulties:
  • Individualized Support for youth: counsellors to improve community inclusion, relationship building, additions, legal, education, employment, volunteerism, advocacy, counselling, emotional health, financial healthcare, housing, nutrition, independent living.
  • Similar programs for youth at Foundry – including compensatory strategies.
  • Group programs, - address complex needs with programs offered at any given time reflecting the needs of clients including yoga, meditation, healing art, path to employment, peer support, aerobics, inner rhythms drum circle, walking, group and more.
  • One-to-one tailored programs – like group, but individual completes on own – 8-week programs – for substance use and grain injury, managing emotions, social navigation.
  • Neuro recovery centre – cognitive rehabilitation to advance neuroplasticity in clients.
  • Persistent concussion – fee-based, sometimes paid by family and often funded by ICBC; includes aerobic, cognitive rehab and other programs.
  • Clinical counseling- related to grieving the pre-injury self; failed attempts at returning to school/work, social isolation, personality changes, PTSD; loss of or strained relationships, worry about managing injuries.
  • Caregiver support – family, friends, peers supplemented to prevent burnout of those support people, with one=to=one supports, respite programs and counselling]
  • Crime reduction and prevention – for ABI people with criminal history or risk of reoffending – counseling, clothing, shelter
  • Education – school, community, helmet education, conferences
3 key points to remember:
  • ABI is very complex.
  • ABI is unlike any other disability – there is memory of what it was like before ABI.
  • Respect for individual wit ABI is paramount.