What is a Brain Injury?
The term Acquired Brain Injury (ABI) relates to an injury caused at some point after birth. There are many possible causes, including a fall, a blow to the head, a brain haemorrhage or a tumour. Lack of oxygen to the brain through a stroke and infections such as encephalitis can also result in an acquired brain injury.
The term Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) specifically relates to an injury caused by a trauma to the head (head injury). There are a range of causes including falls, accidents, assaults, drug or alcohol misuse.
How does it affect people?
The term ‘hidden disability’ very aptly describes brain injury. Residual cognitive and psychological symptoms mean that people with a brain injury are unfortunately often mistaken for being drunk, mentally unwell, taking drugs or behaving inappropriately.
No two brain injuries are the same. Brain injury affects people in a wide range of ways, but some common effects include:
- Difficulty controlling anger
- Memory and concentration problems
- Physical disability
- Extreme fatigue (very common)
- Loss of senses such as sight
We often see relationship difficulties which are the result of the impact of brain injury. Relationships can change as the individual and their families comes to terms with a new way of life. In some cases the individual becomes a very different person.
Even a minor head injury can temporarily impair the brain function, known as concussion. This can lead to difficulties such as headaches, dizziness, fatigue, depression, irritability and memory problems.
The more severe the brain injury, the more pronounced the long-term effects such as:
- Physical effects on mobility, weakness or paralysis
- Ataxia – uncontrolled movements and tremors
- Sensory impairment
- Difficulties with speech
- Aphasia – loss of receptive or expressive language
- Problems with memory and visual-perceptual skills
- Concentration and motivation problems
- Impaired insight and empathy
- Depression, anxiety and personality issues
The aftermath of a brain injury can be a long journey for both the individual and their family carers and friends. Sensible planning for the future is vital, with small but important goals to be set along the way. This is where Headway comes in.
The Facts About Brain Injury
Brain injury and impact of Covid lockdown: Headway UK Key findings
- 57% of people who sustained a brain injury within the past two years reported that their rehabilitation has been negatively impacted
- Two thirds of respondents reported a negative impact on their psychological wellbeing
- 62% respondents fear for their future
- 50% have lost access to vital support that helps them to cope
- 42% say their rehabilitation has been negatively impacted
Brain injury survivors fear for their futures due to lost rehab
Two thirds of respondents report a negative impact on psychological wellbeing
Impact on relationships
A particular concern is the increase in loneliness reported by 73% of people living alone and 70% of partners reporting increased stress.
Half of respondents have lost access to vital support to help them cope
We do not yet know the impact of long Covid but it is likely to result in an increase in referrals and need for Headway services.
An important community charity role for Headway is to raise awareness of the consequences of acquired brain injury and support initiatives to prevent or reduce incidence. We work with our clients, Carers and colleagues to share first-hand experiences of living with a brain injury or caring for someone with a brain injury.
We promote awareness, education and prevention in a number of ways:
- Workshops and coffee mornings for relatives and Carers to learn more about the functions of the brain and understand the consequences of injury. This enables people to support their relative through the recovery process and develop strategies to support themselves and their loved one in managing symptoms
- Training for other statutory and non-statutory organisations through formal programmes and informal presentations at their team meetings
- Co-hosting an annual conference on acquired brain injury. This provides an opportunity for professionals to increase their skills and knowledge, promote new initiatives and share good practice
- In partnership with other organisations and professionals we support road safety campaigns including school programmes to promote wearing of cycle helmets for younger children and safe driving campaigns for older pupils (Safe Drive Stay Alive).
- Raising awareness for professional groups by supporting student education. We have links with Universities and other higher education providers and provide placements for pre-registration students in occupational therapy, nursing and social work. We are also a recognised placement provider for police students and are always keen to work with other professions such as Speech & Language Therapy or Psychology.