March is National Brain Injury Awareness Month, a time designated in order to help those affected as well as their families and loved ones so that they can learn more about the causes, symptoms, prevention, and treatment of brain injuries to empower those affected.
Who Is Affected?
According to the Brain Injury Association of America, more than 3 million people in the United States have sustained an acquired brain injury in the past year. An acquired brain injury is one that is not hereditary or degenerative.
Common Causes of Brain Injury
Here are several of the most commonly reported causes for an acquired brain injury:
- A heart attack that deprives the brain of oxygen for a period of time
- Electric shock
- Substance Abuse
- Infectious disease like meningitis
About 2.5 million of those 3 million reported cases were traumatic brain injuries, which involves an acute event from an external force. For example, the most common causes of a brain injury in the United States are falls, motor vehicle accidents, being struck by or against something, and physical assaults.
Fifty thousand people will die from a traumatic brain injury every year, and many more will be forced to live with a disability. In fact, the Brain Injury Association of America estimates that 12 million people in the United States are affected in some capacity by an acquired brain injury.
Therefore, National Brain Injury Awareness Month was created to provide those affected with information about treatments, finding healthcare professionals, managing symptoms, and other concerns that are part of adjusting to daily life again, post-injury. It was also created to help families, loved ones, and caregivers.
Brain Injury: A Family Illness
A brain injury is often not just an individual illness; it is sometimes called a “family illness,” because it can affect many people even if they haven’t incurred an injury themselves. Friends or family members may be responsible for a number of tasks to care for the individual in need. This could mean anything from going grocery shopping for them, paying their bills, or even helping with their medical catheter if the brain injury has restricted their mobility or hand dexterity.
National Brain Injury Awareness Month has helped friends and family members of someone with an acquired brain injury through providing relevant tips and information related to care. It has also linked people across the country who are going through the same issues, helping to create a community.
There’s no question that caring for a loved one can have its own set of complications and affect family dynamics, which is why it’s important to address these concerns as early as possible. The Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and MU Department of Health Psychology has provided a list of healthy family dynamics and unhealthy family dynamics, which friends and family can use to provide the best care while taking care of themselves as well. For example, it is important to understand that a role change where you may have to administer daily care can be stressful. You may have feelings of anger or guilt. You may have less time for yourself, your sleep may be affected, and your schedule may need to be adjusted.
These are all common, but it’s important to take care of yourself so you can best respond to these changes. This could mean practicing stress reduction techniques, getting enough sleep every night, dieting and exercising, speaking with a counselor, participating in a support group, or simply asking for help from others in your life.
180 Medical has a number of resources available for friends and family members of those who may be affected by a brain injury, and we encourage you to review our website to learn more about the proper way to cath, maintaining a sterile cathing environment, and other issues related to ongoing care.