Acquired brain injury (ABI) is a broad term that refers to many different types of brain injury leading to very different effects for different people.
Your ABI might involve physical limitations or mobility issues, or it may not. Your brain injury might be ‘invisible’ to others, with no obvious physical symptoms. But nonetheless you may have challenges impact on your ability to manage in your everyday life.
Often your recovery will proceed at a rapid pace in the early weeks and months after your injury. Further recovery may be slower. The rate of recovery cannot be predicted.
It’s advisable to maintain a structured routine, with regular bedtimes and meals, and to try to spend most of your time in familiar settings. Tools like memory prompts can help you stay on task and keep control of your belongings. It’s advisable to avoid alcohol and non-prescribed drugs, to exercise and eat a nutritious diet and look after your general health to give your brain the best possible chance to heal.
ABI and relationships
ABI can affect relationships with various people in your life - your partner, your friends, children or other family members. Some of these may be your carers as well. While you need support to come to terms with the effects of your ABI, they may need support too.
The impacts of an ABI can be considerable. An ABI can mean changes to personality, behaviour, cognitive ability, capacity to work or perform other activities, and ability to communicate. All of these changes can make a significant impact on the way you relate to those around you, and how they relate to you.
It is highly advisable to obtain counselling from an appropriately qualified professional who can help you and your loved ones understand the changes arising from your ABI and develop strategies to cope.
ABI and stress
Stress management techniques such as mindfulness meditation, yoga and other forms of physical exercise can be beneficial to people living with ABI.
It can be very helpful to keep a stress diary in which you note the circumstances that trigger stressful feelings. Certain patterns might emerge that can help you identify and avoid some of the causes of stress in your life. Or you may not be able to control or avoid such situations but you can work on how you think about them and deal with them.
MSWA offers a variety of programs incorporating mindfulness training, relaxation and meditation. We also run classes such as art therapy, sound therapy and other activities designed to help you manage your stress.
ABI and physical impairment
Depending on the cause of your ABI, you might experience mobility issues whether mild or severe. You may find you are fatigued much of the time. You may experience spasticity (stiff or weak limbs) tremors, weakness or paralysis. Any or all of these symptoms can be addressed through physiotherapy treatments including specially prescribed exercises to be performed in a gym or at home.
You may rely on a wheelchair for mobility or other walking aid. Again, a physiotherapist can assess your mobility issues and recommend the most appropriate mobility aids to meet your needs and help you achieve your goals.
If your physical impairments cause difficulties in performing everyday tasks like eating, talking or getting dressed, an occupational therapist can assess your condition and your home environment and recommend aids and assistive technologies to help you regain self-sufficiency.
Organisations like Western Australia’s Headwest can provide you with further information, resources and support to help you live well after a brain injury.
If you’re living with an ABI, MSWA’s multidisciplinary team of physiotherapists, speech pathologists, dietitians, occupational therapists, counsellors and social welfare specialists provide a wide spectrum of services and support to help you get the most out of life.